Initial indications are that phone and broadband networks have again been slammed with the latest Covid scare - but also that there has been no repeat of the prolonged overloading and dropped connections that marred the first lockdown.
There were no immediate reports of major issues from retail telcos or network operators, though 2degrees chief technology officer Martin Sharrock said:
"We are aware that some calls may have been directed to voicemail at the very peak of demand, but our customers were always able to remain connected to their friends and whānau using text or Messenger."
He added, "Data, voice and text traffic were all tracking similarly to yesterday until 3 pm, the time the first mention of the Covid-19 community case was made public. At that time data, voice, and text volumes all spiked.
"The most significant increase in network traffic was seen around 6pm, as the Covid-19 media conference was underway advising Kiwis of the change to Alert Level 4."
Sharrock says his company saw:
• a 60 per cent increase in data use
• close to a 7x increase in voice calls
• "a notable increase in text volumes specifically in the Auckland region, with little change in text volumes across the rest of New Zealand".
A spokeswoman for Spark said, "We saw a huge spike in calls after the PM's conference – 160,000 voice calls every five minutes, which is about 130 per cent higher than usual.
"Broadband traffic was consistent overnight, but as people start working, learning, and connecting from home we expect to see this increase."
A spokesman for Vodafone said "all networks are holding up really well." The telco saw:
• Fixed data up 10 per cent at peak – record traffic at 6pm last night
• Mobile voice - 300 to 400 per cent increase at 6-7pm peak after lockdown announcement, "with no capacity issues"
• Mobile data – 25 per cent increase at peak
A spokesman for Chorus said, "Peak traffic on the Chorus network last night reached 3.21 terabits per seconds at 9.10pm, a 13 per cent increase on the previous night and well within our installed capacity levels. It is the equal to the highest peak traffic recorded on 16 March 2021."
There was a small traffic peak at 6.10pm followed by a dip in demand for approximately an hour. Higher levels of network traffic started at 8.00 pm and continued into the early morning. The online game Fortnite released a patch update at 8.00pm which will likely have contributed to the increased traffic levels, the spokesman said.
There are no congestion issues on the Chorus network. The traffic spike continued this morning (see chart below).
For telcos, renewed risk of customers not being able to pay their bills could be the larger problem. With its parent company's recent quarterly result, 2degrees' said it continued to face increased risk of bad debt as Covid uncertainty lingered.
Meanwhile, Paul Brislen, the recently appointed head of the Telecommunications Carriers Forum - an industry body whose members include Spark, Vodafone NZ, 2degrees and Chorus, said: "The telecommunications sector has put in place a number of processes and support teams to ensure the lines stay open even during lockdown.
"The industry comes together to figure out what needs to be done, what projects need to be paused, and how we can work together to make sure you, our customers, are all able to carry on as normal a life as is possible."
Brislen said he would sending a network status update to Communications Minister David Clark every 24 hours.
With the shields holding on telco networks, the main focus last night was on the electricity sector, where ational grid operator Transpower is warning of potential power cuts after a tower arm failure reduced the amount of power coming north from the South Island.
Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson said he had asked generators to produce more power. The situation was stable, he said.