How We Use The Internet? Key Findings of a Cisco Study


Households worldwide consume 11.4 GB of data per month over their residential broadband connections, with most of that traffic occurring during the peak hours of 9 p.m. through 1 a.m. in local time zones, Cisco (s csco)  discovered in data it put out today tracking web traffic over the third quarter of the year. The data also hints that  today’s top broadband users are less likely the evil, P2P file-seeding misfits that ISPs like to blame for congestion, and are more likely early adopters who are living more of their lives online, which has big implications for policy and  how service providers build out their networks.

Highlights of the Cisco VNI Study
The average broadband connection generates 11.4 gigabytes of Internet traffic per month, or 375 megabytes per day. That is equal to 100 mp3 music files per day.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is 38 percent of global broadband traffic, down from over 60 percent two years ago.
Peak hour Internet traffic is 17 percent higher than Internet traffic during an average hour.
Peak hour video communications traffic is 52 percent higher than average video communications traffic.
In an average day, Internet “prime time” ranges from approximately 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM around the world. This contrasts to broadcast TV prime time, which is generally from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM across most global markets.
25% of global Internet traffic is generated during the Internet “prime time” period. An average “prime time” Internet hour has 20% more traffic than a non-prime time Internet hour.
Source Cisco VNI Index.

At 11.4 GB per month, the average global family would easily break through the minimum 5 GB per month caps considered by some ISPs such as Time Warner Cable (s twc) or Frontier (and implemented by the majority of U.S. cellular companies on their data plans). However, it’s also a far cry from the reviled 250 GB per month cap Comcast implements, which may provide some solace to those worried about crashing through the company’s ceiling. In fact, Comcast currently says that its users download a median of between 2 GB and 4 GB per month.

What else does the Cisco data, gathered from 20 ISPs around the world, tell us? In addition to the clear appearance of an Internet prime time, when about a quarter of the day’s traffic is consumed, it tells the same old story of a few people using a lot of the total resources. Cisco says that 10 percent of web users consume 60 percent of the bandwidth and 1 percent consume 20 percent of the bandwidth, which is in line with what ISPs have been saying to justify caps, tiers and other restrictive pricing plans, oftentimes citing P2P use as a leading problem generating congestion on the network.

Top 1% and Top 10% of Global Broadband Subscribers & the traffic they create

However, the Cisco research shows that P2P use has dropped, comprising only 38 percent of the total traffic in the third quarter, compared with 60 percent 18 months ago (albeit with a smaller sample size).

So I’m left to wonder if those heavy users are the dreaded bandwidth hogs who are demonized by ISPs or are they the early adopters who are indicators of how the average person will use the network in the future? Given that P2P use is falling while the use of video and other collaboration products are rising (those products consumed 4.3 percent of the average monthly traffic), I’m inclined to think that early adopters are now driving a lot of the traffic growth.

As the FCC considers the rules that will govern how, when and if ISPs can block traffic on their networks this Thursday, as well as formulates a National Broadband Plan, data that shows us how people will use tomorrow’s networks is a valuable resource for making policy decisions as well as for ISPs figuring out their network buildouts. Consumption will continue to rise, which means our capacity will have to as well. As always, that’s great news for Cisco.