AT&T traffic report: Voice calls, IMs, and text messages are up, email and web traffic are down

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The telecom company is using AI and automation to manage traffic and activity on 4G and 5G cell sites.

As the US heads into the first full month of stay-at-home orders for 270 million people because of the coronavirus pandemic, AT&T reports that people are staying in contact with each other through phone calls and text messaging but not email. The telcom provider also has seen a big spike in audio, web and video conferencing tools, and large-scale online events.   

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

Also according to traffic data released on Tuesday, March 31, business, home broadband, and wireless usage was up 24% compared to the same day last month. Other new traffic patterns include:

  • Instant messaging: Up by 63%
  • Text messaging: Up by 41%
  • Voice calls: Up by 33%
  • Video: Up by 4%
  • Emailing: Down by 18%
  • Web browsing: Down by 5%

The company also reports these increases in conference activity:

  • Audio, web and video conferencing tools: Up by 400% more minutes
  • Large-scale webcast events: Up by 200%
  • AT&T’s global audio-conferencing solution: Up by 200%

AT&T has transitioned to a software-defined network (SDN) over the last decade. A SDN is an approach to managing networks that virtually separates network control (intelligence) from the network plane (actual work of packet forwarding). Benefits of a software-defined network include:

  • Lower hardware and operating costs
  • Adaptability
  • Increased uptime
  • Improved management and planning
  • Tighter security

The company has used its SDN as well as incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) to support the expansion of 5G services. The company reported that it is using some of those tools to optimize its wireless network during the coronavirus pandemic.

SEE: How 4G and 5G networks are vulnerable to Denial-of-Service attacks (TechRepublic)

AT&T is using AI to collect and analyze data when there are problems with 4G and 5G cell sites and then reset the sites. The company is also using AI to conserve energy, by “waking up” some cells more frequently as traffic increases, while others, such as in office parks and buildings, go to sleep more. The company also has expedited deployments of new AI capabilities in certain cities to balance the traffic load regionally to overloading specific cells.

In March, Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube reduced streaming quality to Europe, at the request of the European Commission. 

David Belson, senior director of internet research and analysis at the Internet Society doesn’t think bandwidth will be a problem because of existing conservation measures such as adaptive streaming technologies that automatically adjust stream quality in real time based on network conditions and available bandwidth. 

“In addition to placing pressure on content providers, regulators should be pushing telecom service providers to make high-speed broadband more widely available within their countries, and affordable to all,” he said.

Also see

The latest cancellations: How the coronavirus is disrupting tech conferences worldwide (TechRepublic)

The tech pro’s guide to video conferencing (TechRepublic download)
Coronavirus domain names are the latest hacker trick (TechRepublic)
COVID-19 demonstrates the need for disaster recovery and business continuity plans (TechRepublic Premium)
As coronavirus spreads, here’s what’s been canceled or closed (CBS News)
Coronavirus: Effective strategies and tools for remote work during a pandemic (ZDNet)
How to track the coronavirus: Dashboard delivers real-time view of the deadly virus (ZDNet)
Coronavirus and COVID-19: All your questions answered (CNET)
Coronavirus: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

5G (5th generation) communication technology concept. Smart city. Telecommunication.

5G (5th generation) communication technology concept. Smart city. Telecommunication.

Image: metamorworks, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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