What are We Downloading?

Sandvine has issued their latest report on the state of the Internet. Sandvine sells internet tools and is the leader in network policy control, selling products that help carriers with things like peer-to-peer caching and traffic redirection. As usual the Sandvine report is full of interesting facts.

I compared some of the statistics from the 2014 to the first half of 2012 just to see how things have changed. Consider the following chart that compares landline downloads in the US for the two periods.

Rank            1st Half 2012      Pct              1st Half 2014         Pct

1                   Netflix             32.9%            Netflix                34.2%

2                   YouTube         13.8%             YouTube            13.2%

3                   HTTP               12.1%             HTTP                   11.7%

4                   BitTorrent        6.3%              iTunes                  3.6%

5                   iTunes              3.8%              SSL                        3.4%

6                   Flash Video      2.6%              BitTorrent            3.4%

7                   MPEG               2.0%               MPEG                   2.9%

8                   RTMP               2.0%               Facebook              2.0%

9                   Hulu                 1.8%               Amazon Video     1.9%

10                 SSL                   1.6%               Hulu                      1.7%

To put this into perspective it’s also important to look at average Internet usage per Internet customer. Consider the following numbers for the two time period:

.                                                         1st Half 2012   1st Half 2014     Pct Increase

Average Monthly Download              26.3 GB              43.8 GB               67%

Average Monthly Upload                      5.7 GB                7.6 GB              33%

Aggregate Monthly Usage                   32.1 GB             51.4 GB               60%

This shows that average household downloads increased 67% over a two year period, or will stay on the historic pace to double every three years.

Combining these two sets of statistics tells the real story. Following is the average download in gigabits used by an average household for each of the top ten web uses in 2012 versus 2014.

Rank             1st Half 2012                       1st Half 2014

1                   Netflix             8.7 GB          Netflix             15.0 GB

2                   YouTube         3.6 GB          YouTube            5.8 GB

3                   HTTP               3.2 GB          HTTP                  5.1 GB

4                   BitTorrent       1.7 GB          iTunes               1.6 GB

5                   iTunes             1.0 GB          SSL                     1.5 GB

6                   Flash Video     0.7 GB          BitTorrent         1.5 GB

7                   MPEG               0.5 GB          MPEG                1.3 GB

8                   RTMP               0.5 GB          Facebook           0.9 GB

9                   Hulu                0.5 GB          Amazon Video   0.8 GB

10                 SSL                  0.4 GB          Hulu                    0.7 GB

If you considered only the percentage table above you might assume that Netflix has grown but that other web services are shrinking. Actually, most of the services in the top ten list have increased significantly from 2012 to 2014. Netflix download is up 73%. YouTube is up 59%. iTunes is up 58%. Hulu is up 58%. The commercial service that has dropped is BitTorrent which dropped 10% over the two years in download volume. And there are new players in the top ten now like Facebook and Amazon Video. What is quickly falling by the wayside is flash video which has fallen out of the top ten.

These statistics show that Americans are using more bandwidth across the board. It’s easy to believe the headlines and to think that the big increase in web traffic is all due to Netflix. Certainly they are the gorilla in the room, but we are using a lot more bandwidth for everything else we do like exchanging pictures (MPEG) and browsing the web (HTTP). The bandwidth we use for all of these functions is growing at about the same fast rate.

The other thing to consider is the sheer amount of increase. Our web usage has been doubling every three years and there is no reason to think this is going to slow down. This shows that in only a two year period that ISPs have had to handle a 67% increase in download volumes. One does not have to trend that out too many years into the future to realize that in a decade that the average home is going to be downloading nearly a terabit of data monthly. And long before that a lot of homes are going to be hitting up against the data caps that most large ISPs have in place today.

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