Self-isolating and working from home as a precaution against coronavirus could overload broadband networks and cause internet ‘bottlenecks’, experts warn

Friday, March 6, 2020
By Paul Martin

Many companies have implemented a mandatory work from home policy
It is hoped avoiding offices will prevent employees contracting coronavirus
Experts warn the added strain could cause some connection difficulties
Domestic broadband with old copper wires could see a bottleneck of data

6 March 2020

Many companies have implemented a mandatory work from home policy as a precaution against coronavirus but widespread adoption could lead to internet connectivity issues, experts warn.

The added strain of remote access, video conferencing and the use of VPNs may cause some difficulties for the internet’s infrastructure.

Domestic broadband for customers served by an antiquated copper-wire network would be worst affected and could see a data bottleneck.

Technology firms that have high data demands, such as Twitter, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, are among the companies banning staff from its offices.

The virus has so far infected more than 100,000 people around the world, including 163 in the UK, and killed at least 3,400 people.

Lisa Pierce, a network expert with Gartner in the US, told Bloomberg Quint: ‘The weak link in the chain, where the system could get overloaded, is going to be the home broadband network.

‘People will hit congestion, just like a highway, where the speed goes from 60 miles an hour to 20.’

But the fears of Ms Pierce are not shared by Openreach, the UK’s biggest provider of broadband to homes.

The BT-owned telecoms company told MailOnline it is built to support a so-called ‘evening peak’ network capacity, which it defines as ten times the typical daytime (working hours) demand.

This spike in internet usage comes from the data-intensive video streaming of films, TV programmes and sports.

The company is confident it could handle home-working on a mass scale, as could happen should the COVID-19 virus worsen.

Customers with slow internet, served by the antiquated copper-wire network would be first affected.

The likelihood of the internet being completely overwhelmed is slim but some disruption is possible.

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