Cord-Cutters Gobble Down The Bits: Sandvine Study

While it's no surprise that consumers who have cut the cord tend to devour more than their fair share of the bandwidth, a fresh study from Sandvine offers a glimpse at the bit disparity between those that fit the cord-cutting profile versus other types of broadband users.

According to the bandwidth management company's Global Internet Phenomena Report 1H2014 study, which synthesizes usage data from more than 250 ISPs worldwide, cord-cutters in the U.S. – at least those whose usage indicates the use of streaming as a primary form of entertainment – gobble up about 212 gigabytes of data per month (with 153 GB of that going toward “real-time entertainment usage”). That's good for 72% of streaming share, an average of 100 hours of streaming per month, and 53.9% of total traffic. This cord-cutting group also represented the top 15th-percentile of streaming audio and video usage, according to Sandvine.

By comparison, the “typical subscriber” – those that are in the 15th to 80th percentile of streaming usage – had a mean monthly usage of 29 GB, representing 45% of streaming share, an average of 9 hours of streaming per month, and 45.7% of total traffic.

“Non-streamers” – consumers who typically streamed less than 100 megabytes of audio or video each month – had a mean monthly usage of 4.5 GB, or 1% of streaming traffic share. Users in this group averaged less than an hour of streaming per month, and were responsible for a mere 0.5% of total traffic.

While the number of streaming hours consumed by people who fit a cord-cutting profile might seem “shockingly high to some,” Sandvine said it’s “quite easily achievable” when factoring in homes with multiple people using multiple screens.

Netflix: Still King Of The Downstream

Sandvine’s report, which tabulated data from March, also found that Netflix remains the king of the downstream on fixed access networks in North America. Netflix traffic, once again, represented the top downstream application during peak periods, with a share of 34.21%, up from 31.6% in Sandvine’s report from the second half of 2013, possibly driven higher by the wide availability of Netflix’s library of “Super HD” content.

Among top ten apps on fixed networks in the North American region, Netflix was followed by YouTube (13.19%), HTTP (11.65%), iTunes (3.64%), Secure Socket Layer (a protocol that nails up a secure channel) (3.42%), BitTorrent (3.40%), MPEG (2.85%), Facebook (1.99%), Amazon Video (1.9%), and Hulu (1.74%).

Creeping close to the top ten is Twitch, a service that lets users broadcast and watch live video gameplay online, which accounted for 1.35% of traffic, outpacing HBO GO (1.24%)

Overall mean usage on North American fixed access networks was 51.4 GB, up from 44.5GB in Sandvine’s most recent study.

The Netflix story is a lot different in Europe, where the streaming service is not yet widely available. There, YouTube represented 19.27% of downstream traffic on fixed networks, while Netflix ate up just 3.23% of the downstream in peak periods. However, Netflix has become the second largest driver of traffic on those networks in the U.K. and Ireland (17.8%), and growth rates suggest that it will become the leading source of network traffic within the next year in those countries, Sandvine predicted.  

Netflix is a mere also-ran when it comes to traffic on mobile networks in North America. YouTube traffic represented 17.26% of aggregate mobile traffic (upstream and down), followed by Facebook (14.76%), HTTP (12.59%), MPEG (7.77%), SSL (7.25%), Google Market (4.78%),  Pandora (4.72%), Netflix (4.55%), Instagram (3.49%) and iTunes (2.84%).

Mean monthly usage on North American mobile networks rose from 443 MB to 465 MB, with Sandvine attributing that small 8% jump to organic growth and the continued rollout of faster Long  Term Evolution-based mobile networks. Median usage, which Sandvine views as a better tracker for the typical user, rose by more than 20% -- from 84MB to 102 MB.

Looking ahead, Sandvine said results from the Sochi Games has led it to believe that the 2014 World Cut will be the most live-streamed event of all time, predicting that matches could account for more than 40% of network traffic on both fixed and mobile networks in soccer-crazy regions like Latin America.