Netflix represents 32.7% of North America's peak Web traffic

By on October 28, 2011, 8:30 AM

Despite losing 800,000 members, Netflix still accounts for a whopping 32.7% of all North American peak fixed access downstream traffic, according to Sandvine's fall 2011 Global Internet Phenomena Report. That's up nearly 10% since spring 2011 and almost double the peak traffic of the next largest source, HTTP at 17.5%.

Netflix pumps nearly three times as much bandwidth as YouTube and it accounts for 29% of peak aggregate traffic, ahead of HTTP's 16.6% and BitTorrent's 13.5%. In fact, the only statistics not dominated by Netflix are upstream-related. It's responsible for 7.7% of upload traffic, behind HTTP's 11.5% and BitTorrent's 47.6%.

As evidenced by its loss of nearly a million subscribers, Netflix has been treading some harsh water in recent months following several unpopular decisions. While this has prompted many to question the company's future, Sandvine doesn't foresee a significant decline in the service's traffic because it's so widely available.

"With so many Netflix-capable devices, the addressable market of the service is already enormous and will only increase, so it's hard to envision a scenario in which absolute levels of Netflix will decline," the report said. "However, Netflix is facing increased local competition, and as a result new services might grow at a faster rate."

You'll notice the chart above is largely comprised of entertainment services and most of that traffic is destined for televisions -- be that directly to smart TVs or through an external device such as a game console. The remaining 45% is downloaded to desktops and laptops, but even some of that is inevitably displayed on TVs.

Sandvine believes the increasing consumption of on-demand entertainment is partly because consoles are striving to serve as home theater hubs. The Xbox 360 alone offers video from many Web services such as Netflix, not to mention separate deals with conventional content providers like Bravo, Comcast, HBO, BBC and more.

The research outfit also drew attention to a shift in usage behavior. While people are consuming about the same bandwidth as measured earlier this year, they're doing it in an increasingly smaller duration. Sandvine says this is worrying for Internet service providers as network traffic becomes more concentrated, i.e. less efficient.

"In a perfectly efficient network, the daily usage 'curve' would actually be a flat line. In reality, all the whitespace in Figure 1 (above) corresponds to inefficiency -- time during which there is available, but unused, capacity." Providers are seeking methods to balance usage patterns, but Sandvine believes monthly caps are ineffective.

While monthly bandwidth restrictions only have a minimal impact on peak network demand, implementing quotas that differentiate between peak and off-peak usage might work. For instance, instead of giving users 200GB to use for the entire month, they'd have 200GB to use during peak hours while off-peak would be unlimited.

"As an added benefit, the user would perceive a higher value of service (again, if 'value' is directly associated with data consumption) due to increased overall usage, without the network operator incurring additional cost to deliver the off-peak bytes. Higher subscriber value and flat operator costs? Sounds like a classic win-win."

There's plenty more information in the study, which can be downloaded free here. In somewhat related news, it's interesting to note that as on-demand entertainment traffic is on the rise, Time Warner Cable shed 128,000 subscribers to its video services this quarter, though the company is reluctant to admit the loss is due to cord-cutting.




User Comments: 6

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Guest said:

Yeah, but bittorrent accounts for nearly 50% of the upstream...I think that speaks for itself. : )

treetops treetops said:

I cant believe people watch that much youtube, I look up songs on there I don't care to download but most of it is utter crap, i guess there aint nothin else to do on the net

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Or just make the services unlimited 24/7? that make it used all the time.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Surprising. A timeline graph for the entire continent of North America and no time zone on the axis label I'm assuming it's Eastern Time?

Wait until Apple TV gets some real content. I expect some usage based broadband contracts from ISPs, and an increase in price to match. In the smartphone industry, the demand for connectivity has outpaced wireless capability and the result is only 1 carrier offering unlimited data plans. We may see the same thing soon in home broadband if we get a streaming service with some diverse content.

Guest said:

Netflix upstream?? Now that's interesting. Wonder what that's about?

Guest said:

I'm amazed I don't hear anyone touting two of Netlflix' greatest strengths... the content rating community they've put together, and more exclusively, the excellent content suggestion algorithm they've worked so hard to refine. No one does a better job of this than Netflix, though Amazon has also put tigether a decent content rating community.

I think many will flock back to Netflix as they realize how much they've depended on these two aspects of the Netflix business model.

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