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When is the internet the busiest?

Chris Enger |

Browsing at the ‘wrong time’ can feel like being stuck in a permanent traffic jam. 

So, who’s responsible – and what’s the optimal congestion-busting solution? 

Many people blame their sluggish internet on the usual suspects – the schoolkids. 

Tempting, right? 

Unfortunately, picking the right culprit’s not always that simple …

The impact of streaming 

As I mentioned earlier, blaming schoolkids for putting excessive strain on our internet speeds sounds appealing on the surface – after all, they’re society’s most tech-savvy demographic. 

But the data doesn’t bear this out. 

Do you know what chews up the most data in a typical household? Hint: It’s not Snapchat, online gaming or other youth pursuits. 

The overwhelmingly dominant factor is video streaming. 

Now that streaming services have entered every home – starting with Netflix, but now encompassing Stan, SBS on Demand, Disney+ and other fledgling contenders – movies and TV are the internet’s data kings. 

That’s why the highest time for overall utilisation on a weeknight is around 9:30pm. You can see this for yourself on Graph 1, which shows the nightly usage peak building up to this time.  

Not all nights are created equal 

OK, it’s not always that simple. Here’s why. 

When calculating usage, we divide up the week into ‘weeknights’ and ‘weekends’. 

But that’s not fine-grained enough to tell the full story. 

If something exceptional happens on the internet one night, usage stats can skyrocket.

Check out Graphs 1 and 2. They’re both from weeknights – one’s from a Wednesday, the other’s from a Thursday. 

Similar weeknights, but a huge variation in data usage. Why?

In this (rare!) case, the kids are the culprits.  

Not all adults will know this, but Fortnite is the most popular video game in the world right now. 

Masses of students are passionately devoted to it. 

And one Thursday night at 8:45pm AEST, guess what happened? 

Fortnite released an update. Huge crowds of people under 18 downloaded it (and quite a few over 18, too). 

The result? Data usage spiked around 20%, putting huge strain on internet speeds. You can see the freak result on Graph 2. 

It’s these types of unforeseen ‘black swan’ event that separate typical evenings from atypical ones. 

Rapid surges like these create major challenges for customer-focused internet companies such as Leaptel.

Australia’s internet pricing system makes it very difficult to react rapidly to an unexpected increase in utilisation, such as that out-of-the-blue Fortnite update. 

As much as we’d like to, we don’t have the ability to dynamically scale infrastructure from one night to another. It’s just not feasible with Australia’s current internet setup. 

There’s only one way to ensure we’re way ahead whenever a huge wave of data usage hits …

Make sure we have excess capacity for all future events such as this one. 

This insurance policy has already paid dividends, because it’s enabled us to build up trust with our customers. 

After all, if you’re an internet user of any stripe, even the smallest delay can be incredibly frustrating. And if you know your provider’s always looking out for you, it’s a good reason to relax. 

As a high-quality, customer-dedicated ISP, Leaptel ensures extra capacity to handle those atypical nights … although that Fortnite patch really put our dedication to the test!

What is a ‘typical evening speed’, exactly? 

If you’ve ever read an internet company ad, you would have seen the term ‘typical evening speeds’. 

It sounds straightforward, but what does it mean in practice?

Everything revolves around Australia’s advertising laws. 

To ensure internet companies are offering easily comparable information, we’re required to advertise our typical speed between 7pm and 11pm. (That’s when most people are home, and a high proportion are using the internet.) 

It’s an understandable precaution. 

After all, it’s pointless for a company to advertise a 100mbps download speed if they can only offer it between 3am and 4am … 

That’s not much good to anyone except hardcorenight owls. 

For that reason, all providers are required to advertise typical evening speeds between 7pm and 11pm. 

The speeds advertised industry-wide are taken from this four-hour nightly window.

It’s an essential precaution – but it’s not foolproof.

Because typical evening speeds are averaged over those four hours, one rogue hour can throw the measurement completely out of whack. 

Confused? Here’s how it works. 

Consider a company that provides an impressive 100mbps from 7–8 pm … but only a sluggish 20mbps from 8–11pm.

The ‘typical evening speed’ would then be 40mbps, which sounds OK at first … 

Except if you’re trying to stream high-definition video after 8pm, in which case you’ll struggle. (Possibly while shaking your fist at your dodgy internet provider.)

In other words, the ‘typical evening speed’ can be deceptive if your internet company doesn’t have enough grunt on tap 24/7 to provide you with a consistently strong, fast and reliable connection. 

That’s why you’re better off with Leaptel.

Our data tells us that even during the busiest hours, Leaptel customers are seeing only negligible drop-offs in speed.

So, not only are our typical evening speeds impressively high – they’re extremely consistent, too. 

It’s just one more benefit of having an internet pro