Sandvine Study Highlights Global Changes in Content Consumption

By Peter Bernstein November 11, 2013

Remember Napster?  For those who don’t although it was not that long ago, it is essence started the commercialization of peer-to-peer (P2P) networking. The rogue company started with sharing music, enabling people to not have to pay content creators for their intellectual property setting of a storm of controversy which ultimately led to the Napster’s closing and the dominance of iTunes.  However, the P2P genie was out of the bottle and video became the next domain under assault, and file sharing in general ultimately not only went legit but started causing interesting congestion problems on communication networks not built to handle the bit load. My!  How things have changed.

 Waterloo, ON Canada-based broadband solutions company Sandvine is out with its Internet traffic trends report, entitled "Global Internet Phenomena Report 2H2013." The twice yearly report is based on selected data from Sandvine’s more than 250 service provider customers around the world.  As a provider of policy control functions including traffic classification, and policy decision and enforcement across the data, control and business planes, by virtue of its place in service providers networks Sandvine’s customers can provide great visibility into the changing nature of traffic.  The new report has interesting findings on a series of global trends, including how different the consumption of video content in North America and other parts of the world.   

In fact, at a high level, a major pullout from the report is as Dave Caputo, CEO, Sandvine notes, "For the first time ever, peer-to-peer file sharing has fallen below 10 percent of total traffic in North America, which is a stark difference from the 60 percent share it consumed 11 years ago."  He further explained that, "Since 2009 on-demand entertainment has consumed more bandwidth than "experience later" applications like peer-to-peer file sharing and we had projected it would inevitably dip below 10 percent of total traffic by 2015. It's happened much faster. This phenomena, combined with the related rise in video applications like Netflix and YouTube, underscores a big reason why Sandvine's business has grown beyond traffic management to new service creation." 

In fact, one of the report’s findings was Netflix (31.6 percent) holds its ground as the leading downstream application in North America and together with YouTube (18.6 percent) accounts for over 50 percent of downstream traffic on fixed networks

Report highlights video consumption shift

Other interesting revelations from the report include:  

Average monthly mobile usage in Asia-Pacific now exceeds 1 gigabyte, driven by video, which accounts for 50 percent of peak downstream traffic. This is more than double the 443 megabyte monthly average in North America.

In Europe, Netflix, less than two years since launch, now accounts for over 20 percent of downstream traffic on certain fixed networks in the British Isles. It took almost four years for Netflix to achieve 20 percent 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.

P2P file sharing now accounts for less than 10 percent of total daily traffic in North America. Five years ago it accounted for over 31 percent.

Video accounts for less than 6 percent of traffic in mobile networks in Africa, but is expected to grow faster than in any other region before it. Blackberry email and BBM messaging accounts for over 13 percent of traffic across the continent.

On the last point, Caputo was particularly interested in pointing out what is going on in Africa.  He stated that: "The African market is especially unique, as most users are connecting to the Internet for the first time through mobile devices, and using applications like Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp. In other parts of the world, new users have first connected to the Internet via a fixed line.  While video is a small part of mobile bandwidth in the region today, we predict Africa will be the fastest video adopter and operators will respond with creative device-and application-based service tiers."

Reality is that P2P is not dead, in fact as the use of file-sharing services like Dropbox indicate it is very much alive and well and growing.  However, when it comes to watching video we like getting it on demand and Netflix and YouTube in North America where content is king are clearly a royal coupling.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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