BitTorrent Still Dominates Global Internet Traffic

A new Internet traffic trends report released by the Canadian broadband management company Sandvine reveals that global P2P traffic is expanding, with BitTorrent as the key player. In North America, more than half of all upstream traffic (53.3%) on an average day can be attributed to P2P. The report further signals some really interesting regional differences in P2P use, such as the dominance of Ares in Latin America.

Sandvine, the company that’s best known for manufacturing the hardware that slowed down BitTorrent users on Comcast, has released their latest Internet traffic report. The company has looked into the traffic consumption of Internet users all around the world, and in this article we’re going to highlight some of the emerging trends in the P2P landscape.

The overall conclusion we draw from the data is that BitTorrent, and P2P traffic in general, is still dominant in all geographical regions. In North America, Latin America and Asia-Pacific, P2P traffic is responsible for the vast majority of all upstream traffic. The percentage of downstream traffic is significantly lower, thanks to the streaming video sites that have gained popularity in the last years.

Despite the global nature of P2P there are some striking differences in the preferred applications and protocols that are used. We’ll discuss the various trends and statistics below, starting with North America.

P2P in North America

BitTorrent remains the most used file-sharing protocol in North America, and the total amount of P2P traffic is still very significant. Sandvine’s research reveals that on an average day, 53.3% of all upstream traffic can be attributed to P2P applications. P2P is less dominant on the downstream side. It is currently at 13.2%, following real time entertainment (45.7%) and web browsing (24.3%).

The bandwidth usage patterns during peak hours are slightly different, but still a massive 34.31% of all upstream traffic can be attributed to BitTorrent at these times. The BitTorrent percentage of downstream traffic lies at 8.39% during the busiest time of the day.

What’s further noteworthy is that the Gnutella protocol (used by Limewire, Frostwire etc.) is still fairly large in North America. It currently lies at 11.18% of upstream traffic and 2.12% of downstream traffic during peak hours. In most other parts of the world Gnutella has vanished completely.

The normalized aggregate of all traffic (up/down) during peak hours puts P2P traffic at 19.2% during the first months of 2010. Interestingly, this is up from 15.1% in 2009, which shows that P2P traffic is growing strongly, not only in absolute numbers but also as a share of total Internet traffic in North America.

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Overall, it can be concluded that P2P traffic is still on the rise in North America, with BitTorrent being the dominant protocol.

P2P in Europe

In common with North America, BitTorrent also remains the most used file-sharing protocol in Europe. The report doesn’t give any exact stats, but roughly 40% of all upstream traffic and 10% of all downstream traffic can be attributed to P2P applications on an average day.

Bandwidth usage patterns during peak hours show that of 29.97% of the upstream traffic can be attributed to BitTorrent during these times, versus 8.29% of downstream traffic. PPLive, the popular peer-to-peer streaming video network, also has a significant share with 11.76% of all upstream traffic and 4.41% of downstream traffic during peak hours.

Strangely enough, Sandvine categorizes PPLive as real-time entertainment rather than P2P file-sharing.

In Europe, the normalized aggregate of all traffic (up/down) during peak hours puts P2P traffic at 11.0% during the first months of 2010. This is down from 22% in 2009, which indicates that P2P has lost half its share of the total Internet traffic there.

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The relative downward trend of P2P traffic during peak hours does not have to mean that the absolute traffic has gone down as well. What is clear, however, is that relative to other traffic sources P2P has decreased in Europe, while it has increased in all other regions.

P2P in Latin America

Latin America is the only region where BitTorrent is not the preferred protocol to share files. Even though BitTorrent has a pretty decent market share there also, Ares is the most used file-sharing protocol. Overall, P2P traffic is huge in Latin America.

On an average day, 73.3% of all upstream traffic can be attributed to P2P applications. P2P is less dominant on the downstream side. It is currently at 23.1%, following real time entertainment (35.2%) and web browsing (28.3%).

The bandwidth usage patterns during peak hours of the day show that 11.91% of all upstream traffic can be attributed to BitTorrent at these times. This is dwarfed by the 54.74% Ares is credited for. The BitTorrent percentage of downstream traffic lies at 6.80% during the busiest time of the day, compared to 12.98% for Ares.

What is further noteworthy is that eDonkey is still fairly large in Latin America. It currently lies at 6.29% of upstream traffic and 1.82% of downstream traffic during peak hours. In most other parts of the world eDonkey has vanished completely.

The normalized aggregate of all traffic (up/down) at peak hours puts P2P traffic at 36.7% during the first months of 2010. Interestingly, this is up from 31.9% in 2009, which shows that P2P traffic is growing strongly, not only in absolute numbers but also as a share of total Internet traffic in Latin America.

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We can conclude without a doubt that Latin America is the winner when it comes to the share P2P has of overall Internet traffic.

P2P in Asia-Pacific

BitTorrent is the most used file-sharing protocol in Asia-Pacific, where P2P has a traditionally high market share. The report doesn’t give any exact stats for this region, but roughly 60% of all upstream traffic and 25% of all downstream traffic on an average day can be attributed to P2P applications.

The bandwidth usage patterns during the peak hours show that 37.63% of the upstream traffic can be attributed to BitTorrent, versus 16.91% of downstream traffic.

PPLive and PPStream, two popular peer-to-peer streaming video networks, also have significant shares with 18.83% and 11.06% of all upstream traffic respectively, and 7.90% and 7.14% of downstream traffic during peak hours.

In Asia-Pacific, the normalized aggregate of all traffic (up/down) puts P2P traffic during peak hours at 25.7% in the first months of 2010. This is up from 8.4% in 2009, which indicates that P2P is still increasing its share of total Internet traffic there.

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As can be seen from the table below, at the busiest time of the day BitTorrent has the largest market share of Internet traffic in Asia-Pacific compared the other regions.

BitTorrent Around the Globe
Region Downstream during (local) Peak Hours Upstream during Peak Hours
Data: Sandvine
USA 8.39% 34.31%
Europe 8.29% 29.97%
Latin America 6.80% 11.91%
Pacific Asia 16.91% 37.63%

In conclusion, we can say that Sandvine reveals some intriguing statistics, with the overall conclusion that BitTorrent and P2P in general are still going strong. Although there are regional differences, BitTorrent is responsible for a significant share of total Internet traffic in all regions. That said, we have to keep in mind that Sandvine might benefit from overestimating the percentage of P2P traffic because they sell the traffic shaping applications.

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