Netflix video streaming is now the single largest source of peak downstream Internet traffic in the U.S., according to a new report by Sandvine. The streaming video service now accounts for 29.7 percent of peak downstream traffic, up from 21 percent last fall.
That puts Netflix above HTTP websites (18 percent), BitTorrent (11 percent), and YouTube (10 percent) as a source of downstream traffic during peak times in North America. (BitTorrent still accounts for half of all upstream traffic). As whole, “real-time entertainment” (which is mostly video streaming, but also includes streaming music) accounted for 49 percent of downstream traffic in March, 2011, versus 19 percent for P2P file sharing, and 17 percent for Web browsing.
Video files are so big that it does not take much usage for it to take over in terms of bandwidth consumed. But these numbers definitely point to a future where video accounts for more and more of the traffic on the Internet. As recently as last November, Web video alone accounted for an estimated 37 percent of Internet traffic.
It is amazing to look at the trends and see how the usage of internet capacity has changed as bandwidth has expanded – music used to be a huge player, now it barely registers. So-called ‘Real Time Entertainment’ such as watching YouTube clips of Llamas With Hats or full-length movies & TV shows on Netflix (or Crackle or Hulu or Amazon or iTunes or … ) now dominates everything.
Of course, this is all happening at the same time more and more internet providers (both home and mobile) try to place limits and massive surcharges on bandwidth usage. I remember doing the math at how I would fare with even a 250GB cap based on 10-15GB games coming out every week, watching movies online, listening to Rdio and Slacker, and on and on … and realized that I would have a very expensive monthly problem. Of course, that ‘problem’ has been enabled by our internet getting faster and faster all the time, with 10MB/sec speeds now a regular feature as I download games (which was nice for The Witcher 2 this week!).
What about you? How have your habits changed over the last few years? And what has changed with how your internet provider works – are they limiting/throttling your usage? Charging you overages? Has your speed increased? What do you think will happen over the next few years?