As Mexico braces itself for more quarantine and social distancing, technology experts warn that the massive shift in internet usage from the office to the home could cause speeds to drop significantly, as has been seen in other countries dealing with outbreaks.
“The crisis we’ve seen in the last few weeks has effectively produced a worldwide phenomenon of massive displacement of internet communications and data consumption,” said Félix Barro, director of the Cybersecurity Hub at Monterrey Tech’s Mexico City campus.
He said that countries like China, France, Italy and Spain have experienced the worst effects on internet performance, with speeds regularly at only 45% of full capacity.
“It’s because the whole world is trying to connect to the internet, downloading videos, making video calls, streaming. [They] weren’t prepared for these increases in network traffic,” he said.
Up to now, internet speeds and capacities in both fixed and mobile networks in Mexico have remained stable, according to global broadband speed assessment website Ookla.
The CEO of Megacable, Enrique Yamuni, said the cable company’s current internet capacity can take an increase of about 40% more traffic, but beyond that networks will become saturated and customers will begin to see much slower service.
AT&T and Movistar said that they are permanently monitoring their networks and haven’t seen a significant increase in data consumption.
Telcel and Telmex did not respond to an inquiry from the newspaper Reforma as to the status of their networks, but information security specialist Rafael Pazarán cited Telmex as the only telecommunications company in the country that is ready for a surge in traffic.
“Not all of the internet service providers are prepared for this increase in rates. Just one, Telmex, is prepared because it has response plans for pandemics,” he told the newspaper El Sol de México.
The main problem, however, is not the amount of internet traffic on companies’ servers, but where that traffic will be going.
Telecommunications specialist Fernando Borjón said that the most likely situation is that the wifi networks in people’s homes will become saturated, rather than a company’s infrastructure itself.
“What could happen in the home is there are suddenly many people connecting to a wifi network at the same time. The networks currently in people’s home are wifi 4, so if you have lots of people connecting, or neighbors joining your network, the local system is going to crash,” he said.
“Capacity is not infinite and the first bottleneck is the modem,” he added.
But beyond possible decreases in speed and overloaded modems, Pazarán said that internet users in Mexico do not have to worry about entire networks or service providers breaking down completely.
“If the question on everyone’s minds is if the internet is going to crash, the reality is no. The internet is [built] with very strong and robust architectures and technologies. … We could have no service, but that doesn’t mean the internet has crashed, but that the bridge to the internet [such as a modem] has crashed,” he said.