An industry expert says the telco wobbles of the past few days will shortly be behind of us as we settle in for the lockdown - but the larger problem of some 200,000 households being without internet access will linger.
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And some rural broadband users are irked they're missing out on the unlimited broadband that's been offered to urban customers to help shore them up for remote-working amid the Covid-19 lockdown.
"The past two days have seen Chorus report record broadband use across its network, Vodafone's mobile data and fixed-broadband falling over twice and industry-wide voice-calling congestion," says Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young.
"The major impact on networks has been an increase in people wanting to talk to their family and whānau, which earlier in the week saw people not being able to get through to the people they were calling. We've been advised that this has been rectified but we're watching to see that the situation remains stable.
"We're comfortable that the fixed broadband networks are operating within their capacity and will settle down to where the daytime peak is similar to that seen at night and during events such as the Rugby World Cup, but they'll need to be vigilant now kids are home schooling and we get into the normal rhythm next week."
Chorus said traffic on its network peaked at an all-time record of 2.75 terabits per second on Tuesday night, beating the RWC high of 2.6Tbps and also hit new daytime highs.
The network operator said it still had a bit of headroom. It can handle a peak of 3.5Tbps. Still it will appreciate the country's single largest bandwidth hog, Netflix, coming to the party by reducing its bit rate (which is tied to picture quality) by 25 per cent overnight on Tuesday. The move lead to an appreciable easing of data traffic Wednesday evening.
Google-owned YouTube and Amazon's Prime Video took similar measures, also helping to ease the crush.
Daytime Thursday saw a new record of 1.99Tbps in daytime traffic, however.
Some rural customers miss out
The unlimited data relief has not extended to everyone.
"I'm very keen to see how the Government and the internet service providers can best-serve rural and remote NZ given there could be issues with congestion and usage on those networks," Young says.
"But in talking to all the providers, including the hard-working WISPs [independent wireless internet service providers], they are all comfortable that they can keep their services keep running uninterrupted."
Still, some customers are grousing. "Are we not as important?" one rural broadband customer said in an email to the Herald.
Spark says its fixed-broadband data cap lift covers rural customers as well, as is 2degrees.
Vodafone said an across-the-board lifting of caps wasn't practical at this point, however.
"Rural Broadband runs over a mobile network that is shared by many people in an area, and normally these networks are more than capable of handling the community's usual household data requirements," a spokeswoman said.
"We would love to offer unlimited data to our rural customers at all times - but the rural network has a limited data supply and is simply not built for the hugely increased capacity we're experiencing at the moment. This would require additional radio spectrum and government investment via the Rural Broadband Initiative. If we lifted data caps now, it would degrade the experience overall."
Vodafone is exploring options for rural customers, but in the meantime, "By managing their data use within current plan limits, up to 200 gigabytes per month, customers should have more than enough data to prioritise their business communication and educational needs."
Tuanz's Young also raised concerns about the number of households - in all areas - who are not connected to the internet at all.
Last week, InternetNZ head Jordan Carter, drawing on figures from the 2018 census, said some 211,000 households are without broadband.
Carter wanted the Government and internet providers to work together on a solution.
So does Young.
"I am concerned about those that are not connected at present given so much will be done online over this time, and we've asked the providers what can be done, and how we can ensure that all parties, the industry, both tech and telco, and the areas of Government can make sure no one misses out," the Tuanz head said.
There is some movement. Spark last week re-launched its Jump programme for cut-price fixed-wireless broadband, which has connected some 5000 low-income families to the internet since 2016.
And Chorus said it was working with the Government on a plan to connect children in low-income households as the Covid-19 scare seems poised to drag on for months.
On the government side, details are scan at present. Communications Minister Kris Faafoi forwarded a Herald query to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, whose office, in turn, passed it on to the Government's chief digital officer Stuart Wakefield.
"We know that not all households will have access to devices for their children to use for their learning. We also know that some households will have Internet connectivity issues.
"We are working with device suppliers and the telecommunications industry to source all of the required equipment, and are working on the logistics of getting this to households that need it. This is complex and we will be working with schools and communities on how we make this happen."
Wakefield could not immediately give a ballpark budget for the connectivity project, or how many households it would connect.
The reality is that even if the Government threw a large subsidy Chorus' way, it only has so much capacity to connect households. Even at the height of the Rugby World Cup frenzy, it's record was "only" 15,000 homes in a month.
But there could be alternative paths to learning. Wakefield said the Government was also looking at lower-tech learning solutions, at least as part of the solution.
"We are also looking at delivery of learning plans and kits, and are currently investigating broadcasting options - TV and radio - which could provide another way to reach students and their whanau," he said.
Voice congestion eases
Meanwhile, Spark says the congestion problems that stopped many voice calls getting through on Monday and Tuesday are slowly starting to ease - but the telco is still encouraging people to use internet apps like Apple Facetime, WhatsApp or Skype for calls to help ease the pressure.
"As an industry, we've been working closely together to put more capacity into the network. We have expanded the number of links between operators which has helped to ease industry-wide congestion," the spokeswoman said.
Spark and Vodafone have both registered more than 50 per cent increases in mobile data, while Geoff Thorn, head of the pan-industry Telecommunications Forum, said voice-calls surged 350 per cent to an all-time record after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Tuesday afternoon announcement of a Level 3 lockdown and the pending move to Level 4.
"We expect this to settle as people adjust to working from home," the Spark spokeswoman said.
On stock markets worldwide, telecommunications companies have performed relatively well against other sectors in volatile markets - proving something of safe haven as demand for broadband only increases through the Covid-19 crisis.
Spark closed yesterday up 7.3 per cent to $4.10. Despite recent knockbacks, the stock is still up 7.5 per cent for the year.
Chorus closed up 5.0 per cent to $6.92. The stock is up 19.9 per cent for the year.