Video Gulps 26% of All Internet Traffic

That giant slurping sound you hear? Billions of videos from Hulu, Netflix and YouTube — as well as MySpace, Yahoo, Facebook, CBS, Disney, and Turner Broadcasting and Viacom sites — getting snarfed down over broadband networks.

And the ravenous pace isn’t slowing down.

Online video has officially surpassed peer-to-peer applications as the largest category of Internet bandwidth usage, according to the latest update to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Usage index, based on data aggregated from ISPs worldwide, release Monday.

As of Q3 2010, online video is 26% of all broadband traffic worldwide — whereas P2P file sharing is 25% of global broadband traffic, down from 38% last year. While P2P is still growing in absolute terms, video and other “visual networking” applications are growing faster, Cisco says.

The biggest category of consumption on Cisco’s VNI Usage survey is still “data,” at 28%, comprising primarily HTTP traffic (which, Cisco notes, includes some video).

Overall, the amount of data Internet users consumed climbed 31% year-to-year, with the average broadband connection generating 14.9 Gigabytes of Internet traffic per month in Q3 2010, versus 11.4 Gbytes per month a year ago, according to the Cisco VNI Usage study.

Worth noting: The level of peak-hour traffic grew at a faster pace (up 41% year over year) than overall traffic. Internet traffic during peak hours — which Cisco says ranges from approximately 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. around the world — is 72% higher than during an average hour. The ratio of the busy hour to the average hour increased from 1.59 to 1.72.

Cisco’s VNI Usage study found that 7% of all Internet traffic is Flash video. The report doesn’t break out Netflix’s streaming service, but that’s surely a big — and growing — piece of the online video segment. A survey of 200 ISPs from Sandvine released last week found that Netflix ate up more than 20% of downstream bandwidth during peak times (see Netflix Accounts For 20% Of Peak U.S. Internet Bandwidth: Study).

As was the case in the VNI Usage study a year ago, the top 1% of broadband connections worldwide is responsible for more than 20% of total Internet traffic while the top 10% eats up more than 60%. Meanwhile, voice and video communications traffic is around 2% of all Internet traffic (up from less than 1% last year), which is six times higher than data communications traffic (e.g., e-mail).

Interestingly, upstream traffic as a percentage of overall bandwidth usage actually declined year-to-year — from 25% in 2009, to 23% this year. Cisco attributes this to the decreasing share of P2P applications. “The consumer-as-content-producer is an extremely important social, economic, and cultural phenomenon, but people still consume far more video than they produce,” the 2010 VNI Usage report says.

The VNI Usage study is separate from the Cisco VNI Forecast, which estimates IP traffic growth over several years. The 2010 update of that forecast, released this summer, projected the amount of global Internet traffic will increase more than fourfold between 2009 and 2014, with video to exceed 91% of global consumer IP traffic by then (see Video To Consume Most Internet Bandwidth In 2010: Study).

In short: gulp!