Over the years, many Internet traffic reports have been published. Back in 2004, long before the BitTorrent boom had started, studies already indicated that BitTorrent was responsible for an impressive 35% of all Internet traffic.
Since then, we’ve seen a couple of dozen reports, all with a totally different outcome. Some estimate that P2P traffic represents approximately 50% of the total traffic, while others go as high as 85%, or as low as 20%. The overall consensus seems to be that there is little consensus, or is there?
We think we might have spotted a trend, not so much in the data, but in the companies that publish these reports. Most Internet traffic research is conducted by companies that offer traffic shaping and broadband management solutions. Cachelogic, Ipoque, Sandvine, they all sell (or sold) products that help ISPs to manage their traffic.
Consequently, it is not a big surprise that their presentation of the results is often a little biased. After all, it is in their best interests to overestimate the devastating effects P2P traffic has, and convince ISPs that they need to throttle these awful bandwidth hogs.
Or as Sandvine co-founder Dave Caputo puts it: “Bulk bandwidth applications like P2P are on all day, everyday and are unaffected by changes to network utilization. This reinforces the importance of protecting real-time applications that are sensitive to jitter and latency during times of peak usage.”
In Sandvine’s report we see that P2P represents less than a quarter of all downstream traffic, and even less during peak times. Web traffic is most dominant and online media streaming sites take up nearly 16%.
On the upstream side, P2P traffic takes up 61% of all traffic (the black makes it even more scary), followed by web-browsing, tunneling and VoIP traffic.
Interestingly, the amount of bandwidth that is transferred on the Internet has more than quadrupled since the first reports came out a few years ago, and it is likely to quadruple again in only a few years. Unlike Sandvine suggests, throttling is not the solution. Investing in the network is.