Australia’s internet infrastructure just holding up to increased demand
Researchers at Monash Business School have created a Global Internet Pressure map that measures the strain COVID-19 is putting on internet infrastructure.
As COVID-19 self-isolation measures transform working practices internationally, new data from a Monash University commercial spin-off reveals internet infrastructure is being put under significant pressure.
Dr Klaus Ackermann, Associate Professor Simon Angus, and Associate Professor Paul Raschky, economists at Monash University and co-founders of KASPR DataHaus, a Melbourne-based alternative data company, conducted research on how enormous volumes of global internet activity data can be used to infer human social and economic behaviour.
As part of KASPR DataHaus, they have developed technology that collects and processes, on a daily basis, billions of internet activity and quality measurements for any location in the world.
The team has produced a Global Internet Pressure map that is publicly available and is being updated regularly via the KASPR Datahaus website. Users can explore the global observations in a dashboard, and download the data for specific countries.
Using data from Thursday to Friday, 13-14 February 2020 as a baseline, they were able to observe changes in internet latency patterns that emerged during Thursday to Friday, 12-13 March 2020, as many countries entered major lockdowns on travel, work, and business.
Associate Professor Paul Raschky explains: “we call this difference measure, between the first days of the lockdown period, and the baseline period in early February, ‘Internet Pressure’, since if it is greater than zero, it exposes latency, or speed, issues, starting to affect millions of internet users across these regions.
“While the values may seem relatively small, such as three percent or seven percent, such a difference is far from normal, and indicates many users are probably experiencing bandwidth congestion. More people at home means more people online – with big bandwidth appetites.
“The situation is not dissimilar to a family trying to make their way through a crowded subway tunnel. Your streaming video or video upload during teleconferencing is made up of thousands of small packets of information; these packets need to find their way down copper and fibre-optic cables across vast distances. The more streaming packets trying to make the journey at once, the more congested the pathway, and the slower the arrival time.”
By focusing on regions within countries having at least 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday 13 March, the researchers were able to examine how well each nation’s internet was performing given the rapid escalation in home-based entertainment, video-conferencing, and communication taking place online.
Their findings give a fascinating look into what is now a global reality.
“In most OECD countries affected by COVID-19, the internet quality is still relatively stable. Although regions throughout Italy, Spain and, somewhat surprisingly, Sweden, are showing signs of strain,” Dr Raschky says.
Given the sudden shift to online learning and work-from-home happening across Australia’s major cities, the team has so far found that Australia’s internet is holding up. Just.
Of the states, the ACT, South Australia and Victoria are showing initial signs of pressure.
“The signs for now in Australia are ‘steady’, but not entirely reassuring,” Dr Raschky says.