Netflix Still King of the Downstream: Study

Netflix remains the most voracious gobbler of downstream bits on fixed broadband networks in North America, but YouTube is gaining ground as consumers increase the amount of video they're streaming on home Wi-Fi networks, according to a new study from bandwidth management supplier Sandvine.

Netflix accounted for 32.25% of fixed-network downstream traffic during peak periods (9 p.m. to 12 a.m.) in the first half of 2013 in North America, down slightly from 33.0% in the Global Internet Phenomena Report Sandvine pumped out last November.

Netflix continued to dominate the category, but on the rise is YouTube, which accounted for 17.11% of peak downstream traffic, up from 13.8%, and a spike that Sandvine attributed to a jump in “home roaming” – the use of smartphones and tablets on the home network to stream video and audio. Last week, YouTube announced its first slate of subscription-based video streaming channels.

Sandvine’s report for the first half of 2013 found that more than 20% of all traffic on fixed networks in North America were generated by smartphones or tablets hanging off the home network, noting that adoption rates are on the rise as tablets gain access to a growing number of over-the-top sources that offer higher resolution video streams. Apple devices, meanwhile, accounted for over 45% of all streaming audio and video on fixed access networks.

Sandvine noted that Netflix’s small drop-off “should not be interpreted as a decline in the popularity of the service at the expense of their competition,” adding that other apps and services, including Amazon and HBO GO, saw their relative share drop by a greater amount than Netflix.

For the period, mean fixed access usage in North America was 44.7 gigabytes, up 39% from 32.1 GB a year earlier. Median monthly usage increased 56.5% -- from 10.3 GB to 18.2 GB.

YouTube, meanwhile, was tops in North America for mobile access, accounting for 27.33% of all peak downstream traffic, followed by HTTP (19.16%), Facebook (8.67%), MPEG (7.32%), and Google Play (4.37%). 

Netflix accounted for just 3.98% of peak mobile downstream traffic in North America in the latest study, but its share almost doubled from 2.2% in a 12-month period. “[W]e believe that this number will increase going forward and that longer form video as a whole will become more commonplace on mobile networks in North America,” Sandvine said.

While mobile traffic composition has not changed much in the past six months, overall usage during the last year has jumped substantially, with mean monthly usage rising 25% -- from 312.8 megabytes to 390.1 MB. Median usage more than doubled – from 25.5 MB to 58.7 MB over the past year.

“We predict from this data that 2013 will be the year long-form video will make its move onto mobile networks,” Dave Caputo, Sandvine’s CEO, said, in a statement. “The ‘home roaming’ phenomenon, the concept of subscribers voluntarily offloading mobile traffic onto Wi-Fi networks, has continued. This combined with increased consumption of real-time entertainment on mobile networks globally, and the doubling of Netflix traffic on mobile networks in North America, suggests that users are getting comfortable with watching longer form videos on their handheld devices.”

Sandvine’s twice-yearly report is based on data collected from its 200-plus service provider customers from around the globe.