Mobile operator 3 Denmark said that national measures intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have caused an increase in use of its network, which is expected to rise further in the coming weeks. The operator said that on 11 March, after the Prime Minister addressed the public concerning the crisis, voice calls on its network were 300 percent higher than on 4 March.
It took until after midnight for traffic to return to normal levels. The following day, public recommendations to stay at home had the effect of raising internet usage by between 35 percent and 65 percent compared with a normal day. 3 Denmark’s network director, Kim Christensen, said the operator has enough capacity to deal with higher data use and that it is accustomed to peak loads.
The operator said its retail chain remains open but with reduced staffing. Branches will let one customer at a time enter a shop, and staff are keeping surfaces clean and maintaining a safe distance from customers.
The directives from national governments and local authorities worldwide, informed by the prevailing medical advice, is that people practice “social distancing.” This includes minimizing or eliminating in-person contact such as socializing or being the same space for work purposes. One major consequence of this, of course, is that people will have to rely more than ever on virtual contact, driven by mobile networks (as well as by landline cable).
The 35 to 65 percent rise in data use is clearly explicable by this trend, which will only continue and increase as social distancing continues and in some cases is intensified into “shelter-in-place” lockdowns. And with businesses requiring employees to work from home, data demand will become even greater. Mobile operators as well as fixed line operators will benefit, but they will also need to maintain subscriber confidence and approval by offering discounts and some amounts of free data in order to offset the economic hardship brought about by the crisis.
The sharp rise in voice calls on 11 March in Denmark is not representative of future use, in that it was caused by the immediate reaction provoked by the announcement by the Prime Minister. However, it does indicate that dramatic events and revelations, which are sure to come more frequently in the coming weeks and months, will cause people in the country to make more voice calls than normal. In addition, voice telephony will most likely increase during the pandemic simply because people who cannot see each other face-to-face will want to speak to each other, not just email and text, in order to achieve a greater human connection. Mobile operators will, therefore, likely see an increased demand for voice minutes.