Video, audio streaming gobble up 70% of peak Internet traffic in North America

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Demand for Netflix, Amazon and other streaming video continues to grow.

Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon make up the lion’s share of broadband-based web traffic, and that’s bad news for a future where everyone has data caps at home. TORONTO — Streaming has taken over the Internet and now accounts for more than 70 per cent of North American downloads at peak times, up from less than 35 per cent in 2010, according a report from broadband services company Sandvine.Just in case Netflix hadn’t completely established itself as a juggernaut, here’s more evidence of its all-consuming hold on consumers: The video-streaming company nets roughly 35% of aggregate peak-period internet traffic in North America, according to a new report. Sandvine, a Canadian networking-equipment company, monitored a cross-section of the world’s leading fixed mobile communications service providers during September and October 2015.

Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video and Hulu all increased their traffic during peak viewing periods, according to Sandvine’s latest Global Internet Phenomena report. YouTube accounted for the second-largest share of download traffic, at 17.9 per cent, followed by regular Internet browsing at 6.1 per cent, the company said. In set of findings announced today (Dec. 7) for online traffic consumption across North America, Africa, and the Middle East, Sandvine’s data illustrated Netflix’s total domination in North America—the service is well ahead of competitors like YouTube (which has 16.8% of aggregate upstream/downstream traffic), Amazon Video (2.9%), iTunes (2.6%), and Hulu (2.5%). That’s likely no surprise to many avid binge-watchers, who have increasingly abandoned traditional cable TV in favor of often lower-cost streaming media services.

As streaming sites have risen in popularity, the BitTorrent file-sharing service — which some blame for the proliferation of pirated content online — has declined in its share of overall Internet traffic. But it points to a changing definition of the role of the Internet — once thought of as a provider mainly of Web browsing and e-mail services, it’s increasingly become a way for people to access a wider variety of media.

Streaming video from a service like YouTube eats up more network bandwidth than any other type of online application, and in recent years, our smartphones and wireless networks have matured to the point where watching video from a handheld device is a common thing. It also appears many consumers are more willing to pay for that content, avoiding both the additional complications and potential legal issues often associated with peer-to-peer file-sharing, which first became popular in the early 2000s, particularly on college campuses. Netflix and the other top three video destinations all saw gains over Sandvine’s previously published figures, says Dan Deeth, media and industry relations manager for Sandvine. “Netflix’s traffic share is now greater than the share of all video five years ago,” he said. “The growth of these services just speaks to how the Internet is now used as an entertainment delivery medium.

For Sandvine’s December 2015 report, Netflix is the streaming leader with 37.1 percent of broadband peak period traffic, followed by YouTube at 17.85 percent, and Amazon Video at 3.11 percent. Despite Amazon’s small numbers compared to Netflix and YouTube, the online retailer’s streaming service was still the fourth most popular traffic source overall via broadband. Sandvine provides traffic management services to more than 250 Internet providers around the world, and regularly compiles the traffic data from its customers into reports. Granted, streaming services take up much more data than social media sites and other popular online destinations, so online traffic reports reveal less about the company’s success than those dealing with other metrics. Amazon — which drew controversy after declaring in October that it would be banning sales of streaming media boxes by rivals Apple and Google — and Hulu make up about 6 percent of Americans’ Internet use combined.

Earlier this year, Nielsen reported that 41% of U.S. homes have access to an streaming video on demand subscription service such as Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime Video during the last three months of 2014, up from 36% in the same period last year. Amazon’s explanation for its move — that the rival devices didn’t “interact well” with the company’s Prime video service — was dismissed by many industry watchers, who argued the company was making a naked attempt to expand sales for its own devices.

WhatsApp is the smartphone messaging app Facebook bought for about $22 billion last year, and according to Sandvine—which helps big ISPs monitor and manage all the bits moving across their networks—it accounts for nearly 11 percent of all traffic to and from mobile devices in Africa. Searches for an Apple TV on Amazon’s marketplace, for example, now turn up listings for Amazon’s own Fire TV stick, along with some remaining posts for an Apple TV “skin” by an Amazon-affiliated seller. This shows just how popular WhatsApp is across the continent, in large part because it lets people exchange texts without paying big fees to carriers. Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch recently told CordCutting.com that Comcast’s data caps were already “at a level at or below what someone would use if they’re watching TV on the Internet.” As Susan Crawford recently argued on Backchannel, while bandwidth caps may only ensnare so-called bandwidth hogs right now—Comcast’s cap is 300GB—more users will likely break past their caps as bigger and bigger data streams become the norm. Will we soon tell war stories of a time of piracy long since past? “In my day, we had to go to great, treacherous lengths to watch our Game of Thrones,” we’ll say, and the kids will look confused: “Was that a Netflix Original?”

Mobile browsers rounded out the top three with 10.75 percent: While using streaming services on mobile devices is unsurprisingly less popular, it’s still by far the most dominant traffic category. Because network and phone technologies aren’t as mature—and because people have less money to spend on tech—low-bandwidth messaging apps like WhatsApp have become a primary gateway onto the Internet as whole. While the two tables show just how differently services are used on fixed connections versus mobile networks, there is one clear trend: Media consumption is the clear winner.

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