COVID-19 lock-down leads to surge in data usage in the UK

The lock-down in the UK owing to the COVID-19 pandemic is having significant implications for peoples data usage and the types of apps being used, according to mobile operator, EE.

Huge volumes of people in the UK are using their mobile to tune into the Prime Minister’s daily COVID-19 briefings on the BBC at 5pm, with data consumption on EE more than doubling during the briefings.
When Boris Johnson set the most stringent measures to date at 8.30pm on Monday 23 March, traffic on EE’s mobile network increased by more than 5 times, compared to just one hour before. EE pointed out that the peak is well within the capacity of the EE network.

With more people staying at home, the way we exercise, stay in touch and keep ourselves entertained has also shifted – and mobile data usage reflects that.

Closures of gyms and leisure centres mean outdoor exercise is on the up. Data on the Garmin app shows notable spikes compared to a typical week, as more people opt to run and cycle to stay fit. And because people are traveling so much less, there has been a real drop in usage of the apps that are so popular when people are out and about, including Google Maps, Uber and Lyft.

The millions of people that use WhatsApp are using the app more than ever to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues during social distancing. The busiest peak on the app saw data usage per user double in comparison to a typical week on the EE mobile network.

TikTok is the big growth story of the change in the way people are staying entertained indoors – with users consuming 20 per cent more traffic each compared to the week before.