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Xbox Series X/S and Call of Duty combine to break UK internet traffic records

Net loss.

This will come as little surprise to those who struggled to access Xbox Live earlier this week, but Tuesday was a really busy day for games downloads - with the Xbox Series X/S launch, Call of Duty updates and Assassin's Creed: Valhalla release combining to create a record-breaking day for internet traffic in the UK. And, you know, there's a pandemic going on. People have to do something.

As detailed by the BBC, the list of companies that noted a spike on Tuesday includes BT, Virgin Media, Vodafone, City Fibre, TalkTalk and Zen Internet. A Virgin Media press release said Tuesday had been the provider's busiest day on record across its network, and listed the following as the main offenders:

  • Xbox Series X/S launch
  • Release of Assassin's Creed Valhalla (60GB and day one update of 8GB)
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare update (30-65GB)
  • Pre-download of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (85-130GB)
  • Destiny 2: Beyond Light update (65GB)

If you want an idea of how that all adds up, a total of 108 petabytes of data was used on Virgin Media alone (a petabyte is 1000 terabytes, or 1m gigabytes). That's an average of over 20GB per customer, and at the peak of recorded traffic, "the equivalent of 48 Assassin's Creed Valhalla games were being downloaded every second".

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The previous record for Virgin Media was also gaming-related, as 11th June saw the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Season 4. BT similarly told the BBC that Tuesday's traffic had peaked at 18 terabits per second, beating its previous record of 17.5 Tbps on an evening where there was high demand for video games and football streams.

It's likely internet service providers will continue to see busy traffic next week with the launch of the PlayStation 5 on 19th November. With the lockdown in England scheduled to continue until 2nd December, a huge chunk of the UK population is now relying on the internet to communicate with friends and family, work from home, and entertain themselves. Those Zoom calls to play Among Us really stack up, I guess.

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