Information on the current situation:More information via mobile phone, more entertainment via fixed network
The current challenges around the corona topic influence the private and professional life of millions of people. Many customers are at home, working from their home office, looking after their children or are in contact with their schools and universities via the Internet. The O2 network has a very special role to play in meeting people's increased need for information and communication in these times. More than ever, we are dependent on mobile networking.
The current restriction on personal exchanges has a strong influence on the information, communication and usage behaviour of customers. Which digital applications are most important to them at this time? Are they looking for information or do they mainly want to be entertained? The network experts at Telefónica Deutschland have taken a closer look at these questions. They have discovered that the use of content-relevant content is increasing significantly, especially in the mobile network. For the analysis, the experts looked at the network load based on the total amount of data transmitted in the direction of specific servers (peerings). Conclusions about the usage behavior of individual customers are not possible as a result. Michael Horn, Head of Service Quality Management in the network division of Telefónica Germany, draws a conclusion. You have looked in detail at the developments in usage behaviour in mobile and fixed networks. What did you notice? Michael Horn: We see a change in usage behavior in the mobile network. This exciting effect is due to the current situation: our customers are focusing much more on information. The use of messaging services has increased noticeably overall, and the increased need for information and contact is clearly visible. We expect our customers to exchange even more news as well as interesting and relevant content among themselves in these challenging times, for example via the usual apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. In relation to this, streaming in the mobile network has declined. We are seeing even more significant growth in surfing the internet, i.e. classic web browsing via our O2 mobile network. Nationwide HTTP traffic has almost doubled. This is certainly also due to the high demand for information from our customers, who regularly call up the news from the health and news pages. So the share of music and video streaming is slightly declining in the mobile network? How can this be explained? Michael Horn: Yes, at least in relation to other usage scenarios such as web browsing or messaging, the share is getting smaller. Customers currently want more information and as much detail as possible. This also applies to customers who are currently still on the road on business. And this trend is intensified by the fact that many customers are at home and use the fixed network for their data-intensive applications. On a normal working day, music streaming - for example via Spotify - would certainly be one of the most popular applications on the way to work. This is now a thing of the past for the majority of customers. Streaming is shifting to the fixed network. For us, the developments in the mobile network are an important confirmation: In order to meet the increased information and communication needs of our mobile customers, we at Telefónica Germany have temporarily increased the surfing speed after consumption of the included data volume for all customers of our brands and partner brands. We can see that this is being used heavily by our customers.
What is the general situation regarding usage behaviour in the fixed network? Michael Horn: Since many customers are at home, a large part of the streaming activity takes place via our fixed network. In the so-called "busy hour", which is traditionally the most data-intensive hour in the fixed network from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., video streaming via Netflix, Sky, YouTube & Co. continues to occupy the undisputed top position, although many providers are now cutting back the bit rates of their videos. At this time, even the working customers certainly want to switch off and be entertained. Last Friday, for example, the streaming provider Netflix published new series or seasons - such as the fourth season of Haus des Geldes. This caused the Netflix traffic to rise noticeably. However, due to the video throttling, the overall traffic is still lower. Furthermore, the use of VoIP telephony and video services such as Skype is currently rising sharply. This means that our customers want to hear and see their personal contacts, in parallel with the more intensive exchange of text messages. Social media also reports a lot about longer video conferences between friends, and this is certainly playing a role here. In addition, we are also seeing a significant increase in the use of applications that indicate work activities in the current home office situation, especially between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. At the network nodes, more data traffic goes to destinations such as Microsoft, which operate various web-based applications for professional exchange with Office 365 or teams.
31 March: Customers make significantly more international calls
The corona virus is changing the everyday life of millions of people - not only in Germany. Measures have been taken in numerous countries to slow its further spread. These include curfews and temporarily closed borders. How do people stay in contact with each other who have family, friends or business partners in other countries and are unable to visit them personally for the time being? We have looked at current developments in international mobile and fixed-line telephony in this context. Do our customers now make more international calls? To which countries do they make particularly frequent calls? We spoke to our network expert Michael Horn about this. We know that our customers within Germany are currently telephoning each other significantly more frequently and for longer periods. But what does that look like across national borders? Many customers are likely to have family and friends in other countries - and personal visits are currently not possible. Michael Horn: In these difficult times, our customers remain networked across borders. They are telephoning abroad significantly more often and for longer periods. This applies to mobile customers, but even more so to our O2 DSL/fixed network customers. This is confirmed to us by the information provided by our colleagues from Carrier Management. Compared to a normal week, our O2 fixed network customers currently make one and a half to twice as many international calls at peak times. The number of minutes for calls to Spain, for example, has doubled. However, countries such as Italy and France also recorded increases of up to 75%. The situation is similar with our neighboring countries Austria and Switzerland, as well as with the United Kingdom. We are also seeing a significant increase in traffic to countries such as Poland and Greece - the volume of telephone calls to these countries is already at a very high level. Our O2 network is running at top form to ensure that our customers remain connected to their call partners abroad at all times. Our network and carrier management teams have their eyes firmly fixed on the connection points to domestic and foreign operators. They are in constant contact with the other providers in order to monitor capacity utilisation and derive appropriate measures. This includes new routings, i.e. the network-side switching of telephone calls, and an expansion of the central connection and transfer points between the network operators, the so-called interconnections. In this way, we ensure high voice quality and reliable availability for our customers when making international calls.
What developments are we seeing in international mobile telephony? Michael Horn: Our customers are currently making more international calls via their mobile phone tariff. However, the growth rates are not as high as in the fixed network area. We are recording large increases for mobile calls to Switzerland, Poland and Spain, for example. What about calls to non-European countries? We also have a large German-Turkish community, for example. Michael Horn: We are also seeing large increases in telephone calls to Turkey. Our customers are currently calling Turkey almost a third more frequently than before. For incoming calls, the increase is even more significant: For calls from Turkey to the German O2 fixed network, we are talking about increases of up to 70%. The interesting thing about this: In this case, the growth applies not only to fixed network connections but also to our mobile customers. We attribute this to the fact that, for example, with AY YILDIZ we operate a brand that specialises in the needs of the German-Turkish target group with its offers and tariff options. This is now being used all the more intensively. And if we look across the Atlantic: What about the development of telephone calls to the USA, for example? Michael Horn: The telephone exchange with customers and business partners in the USA has increased greatly. At peak times, customers made about one and a half times as many calls to the USA from our fixed network than before. Incoming calls from the United States have almost doubled in the meantime. But compared to telephony to European countries, we are of course talking about a much smaller total here. Nevertheless, the trend towards more intensive cross-border telephony and networking is visible worldwide.
27 March 2020: Stabilization in network utilization
For two weeks now, the majority of customers have been at home. Via the O2 network, they reliably organise their private and professional everyday life. Our network expert Michael Horn, Head of Service Quality Management in the network division of Telefónica Germany, summarises the developments of the last working week (KW13). This week, the Federal Network Agency developed a guideline for regulating traffic management in the current corona situation. How do we assess the possibility that we as network operators could throttle back individual services such as video streaming if necessary? Michael Horn: I would like to clearly emphasize that this is only an option that we as network operators are given if, contrary to expectations, an overload situation occurs in the network. This is not a carte blanche. In principle, we welcome this step, as it would give us an additional option for action in the event of an emergency. We are in regular contact with the authorities and the other grid operators in order to ensure smooth grid operation for everyone in this challenging time. Another helpful preventive measure has already been the reduction of video quality on the part of the major streaming providers. At present, our network capacities are still more than sufficient to cope with the higher data usage of our customers. Our O2 network is stable and reliable. How has the network situation developed in general this week? Michael Horn: Our customers still use significantly more data in the fixed network than on normal working days before the corona situation. Compared to the previous week, however, the network utilisation has not increased further. We attribute this primarily to the fact that major streaming providers such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video have been cutting the bit rate of their videos since last weekend in order to avoid overloading the networks. As a result, around a quarter less data is transmitted for a video stream. We see this reduction directly in our network data. Data usage in the mobile network is unchanged with regard to a "normal" working day. And as far as telephony is concerned, our customers continue to make frequent calls to their families, friends and professional contacts via the mobile and fixed network. In principle, we assume that the temporary new form of working in Germany - namely, predominantly from the home office - has now largely established itself, so that network utilization has also settled at a constant level. Many employees are now equipped with the appropriate equipment and reliable VPN access to work from home.
What can be the cause if certain applications do not work as hoped? Is it because of our network? Michael Horn: Irrespective of the current corona situation, there may of course be short-term technical restrictions at the local level, for example if planned work takes place at a mobile phone site or a spare part has to be replaced. Our network technicians continue to travel throughout Germany for our customers to carry out repair and maintenance measures and to consistently expand our O2 network. We want to offer our customers an optimal network experience even in these challenging times. We are working on this every day. For example, we can also see from the customer feedback via the network service page on O2online.de that our O2 network works very well and is stable. Furthermore, restrictions do not always have to be due to the network. If a large number of customers access data-intensive content from a provider at the same time, the server capacities on the other side must also be sufficiently dimensioned. Otherwise streams can only be loaded very slowly or not at all. For work in the home office, smoothly functioning corporate VPN access is also crucial. The next weekend is just around the corner. What developments do we expect for the weekend (28./29.03.)? Michael Horn: Traditionally, our customers traditionally use more data via their landline on weekends than on working days. Last Saturday, we registered new records for data transmission in our IP network. This weekend, our O2 network will again deliver top performance and ensure that millions of people can reliably stream TV, films and series at home. We assume that the capacity utilisation will be similar to last weekend. Due to the tightened output restrictions imposed by the authorities, our customers will use their connection at home even more intensively. However, this will be put into perspective by the reduced bit rate for video streaming.
23 March 2020: Stable O2 network handles more data and phone calls
The past week was exceptional in many respects: Due to the Corona precautionary measures, people stayed at home to work from their home office, do their schoolwork or make the best use of their free time. This fundamentally changed movement and usage behaviour of millions of customers was also a completely new situation for the O2 network. Network expert Michael Horn, Head of Service Quality Management in the network division of Telefónica Germany, sums up the first week. Michael, we look back on an extraordinary week. How has the data traffic in our O2 network developed over the past week? Michael Horn: At the beginning of the week, we initially recorded a significant increase in data usage in the fixed network area. Customers were at home working from their home office or streaming movies and series during their free time. On weekdays, our customers used significantly more data in the time between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. than usual. We saw this immediately in the network data. In the so-called "Busy Hour" from 20 to 21 o'clock our network handled the most traffic. However, this is also the case on conventional days, as all customers want to be entertained by TV, films and series during this time. It was interesting for us to see that this overall higher data consumption remained at a constant level for the rest of the week. Accordingly, there was a visible "home office effect" with higher traffic values, but for the time being no continuous increase in data usage. In the mobile phone sector, data usage remained at the same level throughout the past week. There was therefore a clear shift of activities to the fixed network. And what was the situation regarding data usage at the weekend (21./22.03.)? What did you find exciting? Michael Horn: On Saturday we set a new record for data usage in the fixed network. Our IP network reliably transmitted several terabits per second. Basically, more data is used on weekends than on working days. But on this weekend, our fixed network customers used significantly more data than usual, for example to stream movies and series. In mobile communications, we saw no significant changes compared to a normal weekend day in terms of data usage. Especially interesting: Since Sunday morning, the streaming provider Netflix seems to be delivering videos with lower bandwidth, as announced. Because although our customers certainly streamed equally intensively on both Saturday and Sunday, the data volume via Netflix has decreased significantly.
Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video had already announced the reduction of the bit rate at the end of last week - as a result of talks with the EU Commission and the responsible telecom regulator BEREC. This is intended to relieve the networks during the current corona challenges. Where do we stand on this? Michael Horn: At present, we do not see any problems with network utilization. Our network capacities are sufficiently dimensioned to cope with the increasing data usage of our customers. Our customers therefore continue to surf and stream on the network without restriction. But of course we are also monitoring the situation in our European neighboring countries and with other network operators. Especially after officially imposed curfews, a further significant increase in data traffic is evident, which poses new challenges for network operators in these countries. Against this background, it is to be welcomed that an exchange of information between all the authorities involved is being sought in advance and that possible precautions are being taken to ensure smooth network operation - such as reducing the video quality. The top priority for all of us must be to use our networks to ensure the information and communication of our customers. We are currently succeeding in doing this very well and in the long term. What have you noticed most about the data usage in the past few days? Michael Horn: In this challenging phase, new digital possibilities for social networking are emerging so that we can pursue our favorite activities from a distance at any time. I think that's great. Our society as a whole and our customers in particular are very creative and flexible here. Church services are shown via livestream because people cannot be on site. The same applies to musicians and DJs who have made their sets available via streams, especially on weekends. Fitness and yoga classes are held at home via Skype video conference or posted on YouTube, so that we can follow our daily routine within our own four walls. At a time when we have to keep our distance, we are the ones who make sure that our customers "stay together anyway" - no longer physically, but digitally via our O2 network. I would like to emphasise once again that our customers can use all of their services - web browsing, messaging or streaming - at any time without restriction. Digital applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Netflix, YouTube or Skype function perfectly in the O2 network. To ensure that our customers remain digitally networked with other people at all times even after their included data volume has been used up, we increased the surfing speed in the throttle accordingly last week. This ensures basic communication throughout.
So far, we have mainly been talking about data usage. What about the "personal" contact of our customers? Do our customers phone each other more often these days? Michael Horn: Definitely. Telephony via our mobile and fixed network has increased significantly in the past week and is now at a constantly higher level. What is interesting here is that the average duration of telephone calls has been significantly longer than usual since last week. This means that our customers are currently talking to each other more extensively and for longer. This is understandable, as they can now seek personal contact with their loved ones, friends, colleagues and business partners almost exclusively by telephone. And of course, the current health and news situation will be an intensive topic of conversation. Another consequence of limited mobility is that we are seeing significantly fewer handovers per minute in the mobile network because customers are not moving from one location to another. The increase in telephone calls is not only related to traditional telephony. In some cases, we are recording one and a half times as much VoIP traffic. In addition to Voice over IP telephony, video telephony in particular is becoming increasingly popular with our customers. If people cannot see each other personally during this time, then at least by telephone and video telephony. I think it is great to see how our O2 network is providing a visible and valuable service for our customers in this challenging situation!
19 March 2020: Customers stay online and networked at all times
Our network expert Michael Horn, Head of Service Quality Management in the network division of Telefónica Germany, classifies the most important news for interested users at this point. Michael, what is the current situation in the network? Are we observing a change in our customers' usage behaviour? Michael Horn: The values for telephony and data usage in the O2 network are at a comparable level with regard to the past few days. We do not see any significant changes compared to the previous days. The already mentioned "home office effect" due to the current corona situation is still visible as our customers continue to pursue their personal and professional everyday life from home. In doing so, they can fully rely on their network: Our O2 network continues to run very stable. Even in this challenging situation, our customers can make unrestricted calls and use their digital applications at any time. So our customers can always be reached? Michael Horn: Exactly. And in order to ensure that this remains the case regardless of their telephony flat rates and data packages, even after the consumption of their included data volume, Telefónica Deutschland was the first German telecommunications provider to initiate a special customer measure this week to ensure basic communication for our customers in the current corona situation. By increasing the surfing speed according to the consumption of the inclusive volume, our customers can continue to surf the Internet on their mobile phones without restrictions and keep up to date with the latest news and health information. They can also use messaging services such as WhatsApp, send e-mails and files, and of course stay in touch with family, friends and business partners via IP and video telephony. It was particularly important to us as a company to create a uniform, pragmatic and, above all, effective solution across all brands and customer groups. Therefore, in addition to our O2 private and business customers, the own end customers of our second and partner brands also benefit from this. In this way, our customers remain online and networked with each other at all times, even in these challenging times.
18 March 2020: Interesting "home office effect" visible on the internet
Our network expert Michael Horn, Head of Service Quality Management in the network division of Telefónica Germany, classifies the most important news for interested users at this point. Michael, in view of the continuing spread of corona, the federal states are implementing additional precautionary measures, including closing parks or limiting the opening hours of cafés and restaurants. Of course, this has immense effects on the everyday life of our customers, who are even more dependent on communication via mobile and fixed line networks. Is this extraordinary situation really reflected in customer behavior and network data? What do our customers currently use most? Michael Horn: In our network data, we clearly see a "home office effect" among our customers: We are observing a shift and an increase in data usage in the fixed network and DSL area these days, especially during working hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is because, as a result of limited mobility throughout Germany, our customers are mainly at home to work or look after their children, for example. In contrast, we do not yet see any significant effect on data usage in the evening hours compared with earlier days. Overall, the usage situation can be compared with a day at the weekend. Can this "home office effect" also be traced in the telephony behavior of our customers? Michael Horn: In the area of telephony, we are currently seeing the largest increases, both in the mobile and fixed network segments. But that is understandable: In addition to professional telephone calls from the home office, our customers are now looking for telephone service contact with authorities, service providers and companies. What was previously often done in person is now only possible thanks to mobile networking. Due to the physical distance between them, our customers now use the telephone more often. Some authorities, such as the employment agencies, also confirmed to media representatives yesterday that they have to deal with a tenfold increase in call volume. We can see this particularly at the connection points to other operators and carriers - the so-called interconnections. In some cases, new temporary peaks occurred here. We are keeping a close eye on developments and, as a precaution, are already examining possible technical expansions of these interconnections. The operators are also in close contact with each other. Are there any other interesting developments? Michael Horn: It is interesting for us to see that many customers are currently making calls via Voice over WiFi. Here they establish the voice connection of their smartphone via their WLAN. The service is basically available to customers of all Telefónica Deutschland's own and partner brands. And as you can see, it is being used very extensively, especially in the home office, and is being very positively received. For example, the service improves voice quality, similar to telephony via the LTE network (Voice over LTE). And what about mobile data development? How much data volume do our customers currently use? Are restrictions threatening here? Michael Horn: Our O2 network continues to run very reliably and stable. At the moment, our capacities are very adequate and we have plenty of reserves. In addition, we are not yet seeing any significant increase in mobile data use. We are constantly monitoring traffic developments so that we can take appropriate measures if necessary - for example if mobility in the country is further restricted and the demand for mobile data use continues to rise.