Netflix, YouTube Traffic Taking Over Wired Broadband

This just in: Broadband customers in North America use Netflix and YouTube. A lot.

But we now have a fresh fix on just what “a lot” means these days following the release of Sandvine’s “Global Internet Phenomena Report 2H2013,” which found that Netflix and YouTube streaming represent more than 50% of all downstream traffic on North American fixed broadband networks.

Peer-to-peer usage continues to plummet. Sandvine, which culled data from more than 250 service providers worldwide, said peer-to-peer filesharing has fallen below 10% of total traffic in North America, beating Sandvine’s earlier projection that it would reach such low levels by 2015.

That’s “a stark difference from the 60% share it consumed 11 years ago,” said Sandvine CEO Dave Caputo, in a statement.

Netflix maintained its crown as the king of the downstream on North American fixed networks during the peak period (9 p.m. to 12 a.m.) in the first half of 2013 in North America, registering a share of 31.62%, followed by YouTube (18.69%), HTTP (9.74%), BitTorrent (4.05%), iTunes (3.27%), MPEG-Other (2.6%), Secure Socket Layer (a protocol that nails up a secure channel)  (2.05%); Amazon Video (1.61%), Facebook (1.31%) and Hulu (1.29%)

Netflix (28.18%) and YouTube (16.78%) were also tops for aggregate (downstream plus upstream) fixed-network usage, according to Sandvine, which supplies bandwidth gear and software to wired and mobile broadband service providers.

In Sandvine’s previous report in May, Netflix accounted for 32.25% of fixed-network downstream traffic during peak periods, slightly higher than the findings revealed today (November 11). Meanwhile, YouTube’s downstream traffic rose about 1.5% from the 17.11% tallied in Sandvine’s last report.

Although Netflix’s downstream traffic during peak periods dropped, “It should not be interpreted as a decline in the dominance of the service at the expense of their competitors,” Sandvine said. “In fact, the bulk of data collection for this report occurred before Netflix made SuperHD content available to all subscribers, regardless of the service provider. Based on initial findings from customers, we expect Netflix share to return to or even surpass its previous heights.”

Broadband Cap Implications

How much bandwidth consumers gobble up is becoming increasingly important as operators continue to test and deploy usage-based Internet policies that charge extra when customers go over their allotted byte caps.

According to Sandvine, mean usage in North America in its latest study was 44.5 gigabytes, basically flat from the 44.7 GB observed in the vendor’s last report. Median monthly usage, a figure that Sandvine believes is more indicative of a “typical user,” was also virtually unchanged, moving from 18.2 GB to 17.6 GB. Those numbers track well with the median monthly usage of 16 GB to 18 GB per month reported recently by Comcast, which is getting ready to expand its usage-based Internet policy into Atlanta on December 1.

“The reason for the lack of growth is unclear, but could be due in part to the seasonality of the study; In previous reports we observed higher usage growth in our first half reports. After talking to customers, most are still experiencing a steady 20%-30% annual growth rate,” Sandvine said in the report.

Sandvine said the top 1% of North American subscribers who are the heaviest users of the network’s upstream resources account for 39.8% of total upstream traffic, versus 10.1% of downstream bytes.

YouTube Tops Mobile App Data

Application usage on mobile networks looks a lot different than it does on fixed networks.

YouTube represented 16.65% of aggregate mobile access network usage during the peak period in North America, followed by Facebook (16.62%), HTTP (13.74%), SSL (8.59%), MPEG – Other (7.27%), Google Market (5.75%), Pandora (5.07%), Netflix 4.36%), Instagram (3.53%), and iTunes (2.80%).

Despite its relatively low position on the mobile usage chart, Sandvine found that Netflix is gaining ground – its downstream traffic share in North America almost doubled from 2.2% to 5% in just an 18-month period.

“We believe that this number will continue to increase as longer form video becomes more commonplace on mobile networks in North America,” Sandvine said.

Median usage of mobile broadband in North America jumped from 58.7 megabytes to 84 MB in the last six months. Sandvine attributed that to rising usage by individual mobile users rather than an influx of first-time smartphone adopters. Smartphone users “are now comfortable and unleashing the full power of their devices’ technology,” Sandvine said of the increase.

Other nuggets from the Sandvine study:

  • In Europe, Netflix, less than two years since launch, now accounts for over 20% of downstream traffic on certain fixed networks in the British Isles. It took almost four years for Netflix to achieve 20% of data traffic in the United States.
  • Instagram and Dropbox are now top-ranked applications in many regions across the globe. In mobile networks in Latin America, Instagram, due to the recent addition of video, is now the 7th top ranked downstream application, making it a prime candidate for inclusion in tiered data plans which are popular in the region.
  • Average monthly mobile usage in Asia-Pacific now exceeds 1 gigabyte, driven by video, which accounts for 50% of peak downstream traffic. This is more than double the 443 megabyte monthly average in North America.

For the report, Sandvine collected data during two weeks in September, and averaged all usage together to be representative of a single day.