In a testament to the rise of on-demand entertainment, Netflix and YouTube now consume just over half of all downstream traffic in North America, while peer-to-peer file-sharing services continue to plummet, according to a new study.
Netflix, holding steady as the leading downstream application in North America, accounted for nearly 32 percent of all downstream traffic on fixed networks like home cable and DSL, said the study released Monday by Sandvine, a networking equipment company. Nearly 19 percent of downstream traffic was consumed by YouTube, the report said, which analyzed traffic from September.
Combined, the traffic increases nudge Netflix and YouTube across the 50 percent threshold for the first time ever, according to Sandvine. Recent previous tallies by the networking company, which are done twice a year, revealed Netflix and YouTube's downstream traffic to be inching ever closer to the 50 percent mark.
A year ago, for instance, Netflix and YouTube sucked up about 48 percent of all downstream traffic on fixed networks in North America.
Meanwhile, peer-to-peer file sharing -- services like BitTorrent and eDonkey that use a peer-to-peer group distribution model -- is decreasing sharply as a percentage of traffic. For the first time ever, total traffic for those types of services has fallen below 10 percent in North America, considerably earlier than what Sandvine predicted.
On-demand entertainment has consumed more bandwidth since 2009 than "experience later" applications such as peer-to-peer file sharing, Sandvine CEO Dave Caputo said in a statement. The company had projected that P2P file sharing would dip below 10 percent of total traffic by 2015.
The actual numbers seem to support that claim. The median monthly downstream traffic consumption was 15.6 gigabytes, according to the report, but the median rate for upstream consumption was only 1.2 gigabytes.
Netflix is also seeing healthy growth in other parts of the world, Sandvine's research revealed. The service accounts for over 20 percent of downstream traffic on certain fixed networks in the British Isles, less than two years after its launch. It took almost four years for Netflix to reach that rate in the U.S., according to Sandvine.
In other regions, YouTube continues to be the largest source of real-time entertainment traffic on both fixed and mobile access networks, according to Sandvine, making it the leading source of Internet traffic worldwide.
Sandvine expects the continued growth of streaming video and audio to support the emergence of longer-form video on mobile networks in 2014.
Sandvine's study was based on a cross section of its data from more than 250 customers.