30% spike in internet usage during MCO but TM says it can handle more

People forced to stay at home during the MCO are falling back on the internet to access entertainment, gaming apps and sites.

GEORGE TOWN: The country’s largest broadband internet players today said there has been an increase in internet use during the stay at home period, but not too much so as to affect their quality of service.

TM, which runs the country’s largest broadband network with 2.18 million subscribers, said they were seeing “more than a 30% increase” in terms of usage during the first two weeks of the movement control order (MCO) period thus far.

In a statement to FMT, TM said it was still able to serve popular apps or content with acceptable levels of user experience.

“Our existing partnerships with the world’s technology giants and social networks in localising internet content has resulted in only 20% of our internet traffic going truly international, mainly for streaming, online games and video conferencing calls,” it said in a written reply.

TM said its current infrastructure allows it to handle any sudden spike in demand. This was further helped by the partnerships it has with a worldwide network of submarine cable systems and tech giants.

“We have ample backhaul capacity that can be upgraded to cater for any spikes in data usage of the industry and mobile users,” it said.

Another broadband internet provider, TIME dotCom Bhd, said it too had experienced increased use during the MCO, especially in homes.

“There has been a 30% increase in usage for entertainment, communication and gaming apps and sites.

“Our network is designed for high bandwidth usage and, as such, is able to cope with the increase in usage of our customers,” a spokesman told FMT.

TIME was said to have over 800,000 premise passes at the end of last year, which denotes its availability of service in locations.

Separately, researchers at Monash University found Malaysia’s internet infrastructure is currently under “significant pressure” due to the current MCO.

The university’s researchers and an Australian data company found that Malaysia’s “internet pressure” was already quite high before the MCO even began.

The researchers said Malaysia’s pressure levels beat China, Italy, South Korea, Spain and Japan —countries that had high Covid-19 positive cases — based on internet pressure analysed on March 13.

“As a result of this spike, as well as growing numbers overall, it is possible that an unusually large number of Malaysians have probably been staying at home even before the government enacted MCO,” it said in a statement recently.

The researchers said the situation was based on surveys done on countries with at least 100 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of March 13. They gauged internet quality, given the increased demand for internet from home-based entertainment, video-conferencing, and other forms of online-based communication.

“In most OECD countries affected by Covid-19, internet quality is still relatively stable. But regions throughout Italy, Spain and, somewhat surprisingly, Sweden, are showing signs of (internet) strain,” the researchers said.

The Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) recorded an eight-fold jump in the number of fixed-broadband subscriptions last year, with download speeds of more than 100Mbps. The number of subscribers went up from 150,000 in 2017 to 1.2 million in 2018, thanks to lowering of monthly fees by service providers.

Malaysia’s fixed broadband speeds averaged 83.8 megabits per second (Mbps) last month, with upload speeds recorded at 52.6Mbps, Speedtest Global Index reported. These speeds rank Malaysia 36th out of 177 countries.

Singapore (203.6Mbps), Hong Kong (169.6) and Monaco (161) held the top three positions with the fastest average fixed broadband speeds in the world last month.