One of the biggest names in broadband network solutions, Sandvine, released its "Global Internet Phenomena Report 2H2012" earlier today, providing a close look at trends in traffic throughout the Internet. The centerpiece of the report also comes as the least surprise: no matter where users are, they want more bandwidth. Although, just how they get is often quite different depending on the region.
The Global Internet Phenomena Report 2H2012 spelled out in no uncertain terms that people want bandwidth, and they want it bad. Asia, for example, is the world leader in mobile data consumption, with 659 megabytes a month consumed. This is up 10 percent over the last six months. Fixed networks, however, have seen a massive jump in North America, where mean monthly data usage went from 23 gigabytes last year to 51 gigabytes this year, a jump of 120 percent. 51 gigabytes, for the sake of reference, is equivalent to 81 hours of video.
Image via Shutterstock
In Europe, more than 20 percent of peak period downstream traffic was claimed by YouTube for mobile networks, while in the United States, fixed networks cite Netflix as claiming 33 percent of their peak period downstream. Netflix's competitors, by comparison, barely register, including Amazon Instant Video at 1.8 percent, Hulu at 1.4 percent, and HBO Go at 0.5 percent.
When it comes to traffic between nine PM and midnight, fully 65 percent of all downstream traffic is related to streaming video. Half of that, therefore, is Netflix. This doesn't even factor in the periodic rushes for data like the 2014 World Cup, set to be the most-streamed event in the rather short history of the Internet, or the Olympic Games and Presidential debates.
The growth rates mentioned here are absolutely enormous, and that in turn is going to spell out a clear mandate for communications services: application-based pricing plans. The kind of growth that's being seen here is going to cause a lot of friction between users and providers, as users want access to the enormous amounts of content currently available online--and indeed, there's a massive amount of content out there--and providers struggle to keep up with the equally massive demand that places on the infrastructure.
Providers don't want to get locked into an endless upgrade cycle--they can't very well double capacity every year to match demand--so they're going to have to do something to throttle that demand, whether by tighter bandwidth caps or by application-based pricing where Netflix access costs more. But Netflix won't take that lying down, and as evidenced by firms like Google entering the market, and Facebook considering likewise, it may well prove that Netflix will ultimately become a provider as well. Imagine how that would turn out; buy Netflix-brand Internet access with no caps on Netflix for $50 a month and get 250 gigabytes to use anywhere else for the same price. After all, didn't Comcast show us that providing preferential treatment on their own material wasn't a violation of net neutrality principles? It's a nightmare scenario for Comcast and Time Warner, a delight for the user.
However the market ends up taking it, it's clear that a lot of changes are in the immediate future for users and providers alike, and all in a bid to find something good on television.
Edited by Brooke Neuman