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

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. Video and audio streaming accounts for more than 70 percent of all broadband network traffic in North America during peak periods, according to networking firm Sandvine’s semiannual Global Internet Phenomena report.

Video and audio, what Sandvine calls real-time entertainment, now make up more than double the broadband traffic compared to five years ago. In 2010, Netflix and the like accounted for less than 35 percent of peak download traffic. Two years ago, in November 2013, Sandvine’s report pegged video streaming from Netflix and YouTube at just over 50 percent.

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. Regular HTTP browsing rounded out the top four, coming in at third place with more than 6 percent of peak period traffic.

Why this matters: Netflix and other video streaming services are set to take up an even bigger percentage of traffic in the coming years. Right now, streaming is all about 1080p HD streams, but all streaming services are getting ready for the day when 4K video goes mainstream. When that happens, video streaming traffic is set to gobble up even more of peak period bandwidth.

The rise of 4K streaming is why caps from Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast are so problematic. Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch recently told 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.


Ian Paul

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