Comcast 2021 Network Report: Data Traffic Increased Over Historic 2020 Levels; 10G Coming

After hitting historic peaks in 2020, traffic on the Comcast network grew again in 2021, according to the Comcast 2021 Network Report, released today. Key takeaways:

  • In 2021 alone, Comcast invested more than $4.2 billion to strengthen, expand and evolve the network – more than any previous year.
  • Traffic patterns remained highly asymmetrical, as peak downstream traffic grew 2x faster than upstream traffic, more closely mirroring pre-pandemic trends.
  • In 2021, downstream traffic rose 11% over 2020 levels, while peak upstream traffic rose just 5%. By comparison, 2020 network traffic levels spiked considerably – peak downstream traffic rose 38% while upstream traffic surged 56%
  • Similar to last year, entertainment activities dominated peak network traffic, with video streaming accounting for 71 percent of downstream traffic.

“Over the past two years, our network has been a powerful and reliable pillar for our customers as they’ve navigated dramatic changes in how we live, learn, play and work,” said Charlie Herrin, President of Technology, Product, Experience at Comcast Cable. “The outstanding performance of the network throughout this time is a testament to our commitment to strategic investment, unceasing innovation, and the incredible talent and dedication of our technology teams across the country.”

Regarding traffic content, video streaming, at 71%, dominated peak network traffic on Comcast’s network in 2021, compared to 11% for gaming apps, 9% for web browsing and 2% for software updates.

2021 Network Traffic:

Comcast increased speeds for its most popular Xfinity speed tiers in 2021, including increasing gig speeds to 1.2 gigabits-per-second In 2021 alone, Comcast invested more than $4.2 billion to strengthen, expand and evolve the network – more than any previous year.

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In addition to smart software and virtualization technologies that increase performance and reliability, Comcast took major steps in 2021 toward the next phase of network evolution. 10G technology will allow Comcast to deliver multi-gigabit upload and download speeds over the connections already in tens of millions of American homes. In 2021, Comcast completed successful tests of key technologies required to deliver 10G, including a world-first demonstration of a complete 10G connection from network to modem.

“Network investment is important, but the network architects and software engineers across Comcast are also innovating at the speed of software,” said Elad Nafshi, EVP & Chief Network Officer at Comcast Cable. “Our colleagues leading these innovations are creating the future for our customers.”

“We certainly haven’t had time to sit still during the past two years, but thanks to billions of investment, continuous innovation, and most importantly the incredible team we have working on the network at every level, we have stayed well ahead of demand, which is really borne out by our performance delivering above-advertised speeds to customers throughout the pandemic,” Nafshi said via email in response to questions from Light Reading.

Xfinity Gigabit Pro is a targeted, residential fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) service that was recently upgraded to deliver symmetrical speeds of 3 Gbit/s. The cable operator also offers up to 1.2Gbit/s downstream and 35Mbit/s upstream on its DOCSIS 3.1 network.

“We’re always building our network in anticipation of whatever our customers may need in the future, so while traffic today remains heavily asymmetrical – with downstream accounting for 14.5x as much volume as upstream in the last six months of 2021 – we continue to be really excited about the multi-gig symmetrical capacity we are developing for our HFC plant, because it offers a unique path to provide those experiences to customers at scale,” Nafshi explained.

Comcast and other cable operators are now starting to focus on DOCSIS 4.0, a new platform for hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks that can deliver up to 10Gbit/s downstream and 6Gbit/s upstream. Recent Comcast tests have generated symmetrical speeds of 4 Gbit/s. Comcast has not announced when it expects DOCSIS 4.0-based services to be ready for prime time.

References:
https://corporate.comcast.com/press/releases/comcast-2021-network-report
https://corporate.comcast.com/press/releases/world-first-test-10g-modem-technology-multigigabit-speeds-to-homes
https://www.lightreading.com/cable-tech/comcast-says-network-traffic-still-rising-but-shifting-to-pre-pandemic-patterns/d/d-id/775741?
https://techblog.comsoc.org/2021/10/28/comcast-broadband-subscriber-growth-slows-business-services-and-xfinity-mobile-gain/
https://techblog.comsoc.org/2021/10/06/comcast-business-announces-28-million-investment-to-expand-fiber-broadband-network/
https://techblog.comsoc.org/2021/07/29/comcast-cable-business-firing-on-all-cylinders-wireless-doing-well-video-revenue-up/

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