British homes in lockdown are using 41 hours of internet a week, or nearly six hours a day – a rise of 29 per cent, according to a new survey.
Comparison site Uswitch said a sizeable rise in internet usage since lockdown started has been driven by home working, video calls and gaming.
Internet consumption for home working has risen 67 per cent, compared with 35 per cent for internet-enabled home schooling and 50 per cent for online video calls.
The survey revealed Southampton has seen the biggest surge in broadband use since the lockdown began, at 49 per cent, to 44 hours and 36 minutes a week.
London residents are the most sociable during lockdown, spending six hours and 24 minutes on video calls to stay in touch with loved ones, according to survey results.
Meanwhile, Liverpool is the country’s gaming capital, playing for seven hours and 30 minutes a week on average.
With millions of people now forced to stay at home, working online now takes up the lion’s share of internet usage – at 8.5 hours a week
Uswitch also said the average household has eight devices that can connect to the internet, including two smartphones, one laptop or tablet and one smart TV – but up to seven devices are connected at one time in some households.
Uswitch reports that about a fifth of internet users are having connection problems due to the surge in demand, which can be alleviated by disconnecting unused devices.
‘The lockdown is testing households’ broadband connections to the limit, as multiple devices use the internet around the clock,’ said Adelana Carty, broadband expert at Uswitch.com.
‘The average household has up to five devices using the internet at any one time, and connections can struggle when numerous people are streaming television and films or using video calling at the same time.
Internet usage specifically for work increased 67 per cent during lockdown compared with 50 per cent for video calling, 35 per cent for school and college work, 27 per cent for gaming, 22 per cent for video streaming and 9 per cent each for social media and online shopping. Hours given in weekly average
Openreach said that it has seen a significant increase in data usage during the hours of 9-5, which can be attributed to more schoolchildren at home
‘It’s already a very challenging time for many households, but having a reliable broadband connection can at least give a bit more stability to services many are increasingly reliant on.’
Uswitch surveyed more than 2,000 adults between April 9 to April 14 regarding their internet consumption before and after social distancing measures were introduced by the government.
Before lockdown, households spent an average of 32 hours a week on the internet, Uswitch said – the bulk of which (seven hours) was to use social media.
However, with millions of employees now forced to stay at home, working online takes up the biggest share of internet usage – at eight hours 30 minutes a week, up from five hours and six minutes.
London residents recorded the highest internet usage figures during lockdown overall, as well as for work, video calling and streaming.
Cardiff residents, meanwhile, registered the lowest overall internet use, at 29 hours six minutes a week, as well as for work, online shopping and streaming (along with Plymouth).
When it comes to work, Cardiff residents spend less than half as much time doing their job online as Londoners – only five hours and 24 minutes compared to 12 hours and 36 minutes, respectively.
London had the highest overall weekly internet use, at 54 hours, while Cardiff had the lowest. Southampton had the highest increase in overall internet use and social media use. Digital savvy Brighton registered the biggest increases in internet use for video calling and online shopping
Online gamers who are trying to while away the hours in self-isolation during the day from Monday to Friday could be frustrating fellow network users who are trying to get work done
Despite school closures and the reliance on the internet for e-learning and online tutoring, average use of internet for school work only increased 35 per cent – from two hours 36 minutes pre-lockdown to three hours and 30 minutes post-lockdown.
Nottingham residents do the most school work – studying online for up to five hours a week – while students in Plymouth only use the internet for an hour and a half a week on average.
Video calling has seen a surge in popularity as friends and families try to stay connected, with 68 per cent of survey respondents saying they have used the technology since lockdown started.
But there were sizeable regional differences in calling habits between digitally-savvy city dwellers and regional Brits, the survey found.
To get the most out of your broadband, shut down applications that you’re not actively using, especially bandwidth-heavy TV and radio streaming services, Uswitch said
As much as 93 per cent of Londoners surveyed said they’d video-called during lockdown, compared only 58 per cent of people in Wales.
As for social media, Southampton residents spent nine hours and 36 minutes browsing platforms like Twitter and Facebook, while Manchester spend the least amount of time on social media, browsing for five hours and six minutes.
Due to increased demands on broadband, 21 per cent of households reported issues relating to connectivity that they wouldn’t normally suffer.
35 per cent of households with an ADSL connection experienced problems, compared with 21 per cent with a superfast connection and 13 per cent with an ultrafast connection.
49 per cent of respondents said their connection kept cutting out, 34 per cent couldn’t even connect in the first place and 33 per cent were blighted by buffering video streams.
Uswitch said households can speed up a sluggish connection by limiting the number of devices that are connected to the internet – especially those not in active use – or by turning off HD streaming or using a Wi-Fi booster.
‘If you’re finding that web pages are failing to load, or streaming videos are constantly buffering, it’s worth trying our tips to keep you connected,’ said Carty.
‘Some straightforward steps like rebooting your router or turning off your HD streaming can really make a difference,.
‘For those struggling on slower ADSL connections, where an upgrade could make a really noticeable difference to day-to-day use, it is often possible to move to superfast broadband without the need for an engineer to visit, and potentially save money at the same time.’
USWITCH ON HOW TO SPEED UP HOME BROADBAND
1. Run a speed test
Run a quick speed test to work out what broadband speed you’re getting and help you decide if you need to ration your bandwidth.
If you only have access to download speeds of around 10Mbps, you’re going to have to be much more strict with your internet usage while working from home than if you had 67Mbps, for example.
2. Streamline your computer
Check to make sure you’re not running unnecessary programs on your computer that could be slowing it down or placing excess demand on your broadband.
3. Make sure your Wi-Fi router is set up properly
Ensure the Wi-Fi router is plugged into the master socket and not an extension, and that it’s in an upright position in the best possible location.
The best place for the router is in the middle of your home and unobstructed by walls or furniture. Don’t put it in a cupboard, on the ground or anywhere it can be blocked by furniture.
Check that it is set up properly, with all the wires connected securely and a microfilter connected if you need one.
4. Use a Wi-Fi booster
Powerline adapters use the electricity power lines to boost your Wi-Fi signal around your home, which is especially useful if you have Wi-Fi dead spots.
5. Limit the number of devices connected to Wi-Fi (if you can)
If you need to make video calls or upload large files, try to do so when kids in the same household are offline.
If your kids, housemates or partners love online gaming, ask if they are happy to limit that to outside office hours for the time being.
6. Turn off HD streaming
Most streaming platforms are set to automatically stream at the highest quality available, but it’s fairly straightforward to change playback settings and save bandwidth.
7. Change your wireless channel
If you’re struggling with a poor Wi-Fi connection, you might want to try changing your wireless channel settings.
If your Wi-Fi router is broadcasting on the same channel as your neighbours, it could slow your internet down.
Some of the more advanced routers – such as the Virgin Media Super Hub 3 and BT Smart Hub 2 – will automatically switch to less congested channels.
8. Plug yourself in
If you’re still struggling with your Wi-Fi then try connecting your device directly to your router with an Ethernet cable, which most customers receive when they first ordered their broadband service.
9. Go mobile
If you have a decent 4G signal in your home it’s a simple matter to turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
This is known as tethering, and while it’s not an ideal long-term solution nor necessarily available to everyone, it could help to have another way to access the internet just in case.