In-Home Traffic Via Smartphones, Tablets Catching Up to PCs: Study

The post-PC era is well underway as usage continues to gravitate to devices such as tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles and specialized streaming players, according to a new study from bandwidth management firm Sandvine.

Windows PCs are still the biggest generator of downstream traffic in the home, at 18.49%, Sandvine found in  the study -- Global Internet Phenomena Spotlight: Inside the Connected Home– which built its findings on anonymous data collected in July from almost 500,000 North American homes.

But that lead appears to be fleeting, as downstream traffic on Windows PCs are now followed by iPhones (12.54%), Android devices (11.33%), PlayStation 4 consoles (6.23%), iPads (5.39%), Xbox One consoles (4.66%), Roku devices (4.29%), Macs (3.73%), Samsung-made smart TVs (2.31%), and Apple TV boxes (2.27).

With upstream traffic added in, Windows PCs still lead with way with 19.67% of traffic, followed by iPhones (12.77), Android devices (13.05%), PS4s (5.78%), iPads (5.62%), Xbox One (4.38%),  Macs (4.02%), Roku devices (3.9%), Samsung TVs (2.10%) and Apple TV (2.06%).

To shine a brighter light on usage shifts, Sandvine found in 2012 that mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) accounted for 9% of traffic. Those same devices, now account for 29.3% of all downstream traffic on fixed access networks in North America.

Regarding traffic composition, real-time entertainment, a category that includes video streaming, is  the most prevalent form across all device types.

While 45.44% of traffic on Windows PCs is for real-time entertainment, it jumps to 61.56% on Android devices, 65.2% on PS4 consoles, 81.28% on tablets, and surges to 95.05% on Roku devices.

Notably, Sandvine found that, on one network, the top consuming Netflix device (at over 12%) was not a game console or Web browser, but the service operator’s branded set-top that supports OTT apps. Sandvine didn’t identify the operator or the device, but several U.S. MVPDs, including WideOpenWest, Suddenlink (Altice), Mediacom Communications, GCI, Midco, Atlantic Broadband, Grande Communications and RCN, support Netflix on leased set-top boxes. Comcast is preparing to integrate Netflix on its X1 platform later this year.

Among other tidbits, Sandvine found that just 2.5% of traffic on PS4s are for game play traffic, versus 65% for video streaming and 25% for game downloads.

Per Sandvine’s examination of data on selected cable and DSL networks in North American, the study also found that there are 7.1 devices connected to the Internet for every home with an active fixed access connection.

Sandvine’s also spotlighted streaming trends during the Summer Games in Rio. On August 10 on a “sample” U.S. fixed network, Windows PCs were the most-used device for streaming Olympics content (47.44%), followed by Macs (14.10%), Roku devices (9.97%), Android devices (9.89%), iPads (5.7%), Amazon Fire TV boxes (3.93%), Apple TV boxes (3.28%), and iPhones (3.05%).