Italy's school shutdown is driving a surge in internet traffic as children turn to online video games to stave off boredom.

With schools, shops and restaurants closed in an attempt to limit Europe's worst coronavirus outbreak, the amount of data passing through Telecom Italia's national network had surged by more than two-thirds in the past two weeks, the company said.

A lot of that extra activity is because of online games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, which can involve multiple players and take up more bandwidth than the business programmes and conference call apps used by adults working from home.

Gaming traffic can spike even higher when the games are refreshed and millions of kids download the latest 25-gigabyte update at once.

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People wearing masks walk through deserted streets in Codogno, Italy. Photo / AP
People wearing masks walk through deserted streets in Codogno, Italy. Photo / AP

"We reported an increase of more than 70 per cent of internet traffic over our landline network, with a big contribution from online gaming such as Fortnite," Telecom Italia chief executive Luigi Gubitosi said this week.

Italy's national lockdown has shuttered all but essential services. Midweek, there was a surge in reports of lost internet connections by Telecom Italia customers. The number of complaints subsided later in the day.

"Telecom Italia's network is working perfectly and with higher volumes compared with previous days," the company wrote in an e-mailed statement. "The issues reported affected just some applications and the internet due to a failure of the international network."

In the UK, a spokesman for Vodafone Group's local unit said the company had been adding to network capacity in case the government introduced stricter social distancing measures.

Operators of infrastructure linking the world's major economic centres are also having to adapt as travel restrictions and other virus-containment measures lead to sharp increases in internet use.

Streaming on Netflix and other video platforms may also be growing as people avoid crowded places and stay home.

A woman wearing a mask walks in Piazza del Popolo square in Rome. Photo / AP
A woman wearing a mask walks in Piazza del Popolo square in Rome. Photo / AP

Sweden's Telia Carrier, which operates one of the world's biggest intercontinental fibre networks, said its traffic grew 2.7 per cent in February and there was an even bigger increase in March.

"All the big players in the video conferencing market have asked for bandwidth upgrades in the last 10 days and some are asking for a fivefold increase," said Telia Carrier vice president Mattias Fridstroem.

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"If no one is able to fly, they will need a huge amount of additional bandwidth."