Verizon: Cell Tower Handoffs Down in Major Metros as People Stay Home

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Social distancing is strongest in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, Verizon says, judging by the frequency with which towers hand off cell phone signals as users move. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions appear to have the most people in the nation staying at home, according to the latest Verizon Network Report. 

Mobile handoffs, the times when a data session moves from one cell site to another as users walk or drive around, are significantly down in the New York Metro area (-53 percent) and upstate New York (-49 percent) vs. a typical day. Other regions like the Mid-Atlantic/greater Washington, D.C. metro area and New England follow with declines of 39 percent and 37 percent, respectively, with Southern California declining 35 percent and Northern California down 27 percent. Nationally, mobile handoffs have dropped 29 percent versus a typical day.  

“The significant decrease in handoffs is a very good indication that people in some of our hardest hit communities are listening to local authorities’ requests to stay home,” said Verizon CTO Kyle Malady. “As people stay home to work, engage in online meetings and share social experiences virtually, our networks continue to support them.”

The April 2 report also found people who are staying indoors continue to collaborate at much greater levels. “This week we have seen traffic from collaboration tools increase nearly 10 times over a typical day,” said Malady. “Being able to see and speak with colleagues, friends and family has become increasingly important to people even as they physically distance themselves at greater rates.” 

As online collaboration climbs, growth in other internet uses has started to stabilize. “We expect to see some traffic growth of specific applications continue even as the changes start to slow for some others,” said Malady. “Our engineers are keeping a close eye on pattern changes an indicators, and we’re ready to adjust our resources to meet the continuously changing needs of our customers.”

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