Netflix and YouTube Dominate Downstream Bandwidth, Fixed and Mobile

Netflix and YouTube Dominate Downstream Bandwidth, Fixed and Mobile

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Internet monitoring firm Sandvine have just released their latest 6 month report that shows that Netflix and YouTube now take up 50% of all fixed downstream Internet traffic and 23% of mobile. Netflix leads with 31.6% of the share, and YouTube at 18.7%. Facebook, with more than a billion users, takes up only 1.3%. Of course Netflix and YouTube are video bandwidth hungry which is more than when people post status updates. But Hulu, a Netflix competitor, still only uses 1.2% of downstream traffic. Out of interest the old leader BitTorrent came in at 4%, falling from 31% only 5 years ago.

Talking about the latest results compared to their first half 2013 report Sandvine says:

While we observed that the Netflix share of traffic decreased slightly since our 1H 2013 study, it should not be interpreted as a decline in the dominance of the service at the expense of their competitors. In fact, the bulk of data collection for this report occurred before Netflix made SuperHD content available to all subscribers, regardless of the service provider. Based on initial findings from customers, we expect Netflix share to return to or even surpass its previous heights.

Fixed Downstream Bandwidth Highlights

  • Netflix 31.62%
  • YouTube 18.69%
  • BitTorrent 4.05%
  • iTunes 3.27%
  • Amazon Video 1.61%
  • Facebook 1.31%
  • Hulu 1.29%

YouTube continues to see growth in its share, now accounting for 18.7% of peak downstream traffic, up 9% from our 1H 2013 study. This growth is likely not caused by the adoption of paid channels, but instead by continued growth of smartphone and tablet use within the home (i.e. “Home Roaming”).

Looking at Mobile downstream usage during peak periods, the report states:

‘Real-Time Entertainment traffic is by far the most dominant traffic category, accounting for almost 50% of the downstream bytes on the network. As observed in past reports, Social Networking applications continue to be very well represented on the mobile network. This speaks to their popularity with subscribers as these applications typically generate far less traffic than those that stream audio and video.

Relevant Mobile Downstream Bandwidth Highlights

  • YouTube 17.69%
  • Facebook 15.44%
  • Netflix 5.01%
  • Instagram 3.53%
  • iTunes 3.16%

YouTube continues to entrench itself as the dominant application on mobile networks. In our 1H 2013 study, YouTube accounted for 31.0% of peak downstream traffic, but has now declined by 13% to 17.7%. Interestingly, while we observed YouTube making some inroads on fixed access networks, we noticed Netflix gaining more and more momentum on mobile networks.

For me, watching a full length movie or a 22 minute sitcom on a 4-inch smartphone screen is not my ideal viewing experience, for many subscribers it is becoming a viable one. Netflix’s downstream traffic share in North America almost doubled from 2.2% to 5.0% in just 18 months time. The report says: ‘We believe that this number will continue to increase as longer form video becomes more commonplace on mobile networks in North America.’

YouTube’s Double-Dip in Quality

Now here’s an interesting fact I decided to drop in from the report. Below is a chart showing actual throughput (80th percentile) achieved by YouTube from a number of US Internet service providers (both Cable and DSL) for one week (all days overlaid) as collected in September 2013.

youtube us isp

What is instantly noticeable in the chart is the fact that YouTube has two pronounced dips. The first may not surprise some as it occurs during the evening peak period when networks are most congested. The second dip however is far more interesting as it occurs over the lunch hour.

If we compare YouTube’s performance with Hulu (another over-the-top video provider) seen below, for the same set of operators during the same time period, we do not see a similar lunch hour dip. In fact there doesn’t appear to be a dip at all’, observes the report.


So why is YouTube suffering a noticeable drop in quality at two separate times in the day? I normally blame my ISP whenever they experience excessive buffering. The report claims otherwise:

‘In this case however, because Hulu does not experience a noticeable dip in quality, and the data sample comes from multiple networks, we can rule out ISPs being the root cause of YouTube’s quality issue. Instead, we can conclude that the root cause the quality degradation is likely occurring because of an over subscription in the Google server farm (where YouTube is hosted), which makes YouTube unable to meet high video demand during lunch time and European evening. This over-subscription would result from a commercial decision by YouTube regarding how much capital they wanted to invest in server capacity to maintain quality.’

Of course YouTube doesn’t admit to this and explains most download problems on ISP congestion and that single strand of copper wire running into your home. For those of us who like to always test things for ourselves the report notes that YouTube has a ‘my_speed benchmark’ on that page under ‘YOUR RESULTS’ – if it’s available for your area, that measures ‘maximum demand’ unlike that measures ‘absolute capacity’. You can use these benchmark tools to not only view your historical YouTube performance, but also measure in real-time the performance of a video you are viewing.

You can download the report in full here for free (they won’t even ask for your email address) It covers more than just bandwidth usage statistics so for your convenience I have highlighted that data above.


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