BitTorrent Accounts for 35% of All Upload Traffic, VPNs are Booming

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New data published by the Canadian broadband management company Sandvine reveals that BitTorrent can be credited for one third of all North American upload traffic during peak hours. BitTorrent usage also remains strong in Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. The report further confirms that SSL traffic has more than doubled in a year, partly due to an increase in VPN use.

uploadOver the years we have been following various reports on changes in Internet traffic, specifically in relation to BitTorrent.

One of the patterns that emerged with the rise of video streaming services is that BitTorrent is losing its share of total Internet traffic.

This downward spiral is confirmed by the latest Sandvine report which reveals that BitTorrent traffic is now responsible for 9.2% of all U.S. Internet traffic in North America during peak hours, compared to 11.3% last year.

However, if we look at the actual volumes of data being transferred through file-sharing networks we see that usage is still growing. Median Internet traffic increased by more than 50% since last year on fixed networks, so in terms of actual traffic BitTorrent usage is going up.

BitTorrent’s presence is most visible in upstream traffic, with 34.8% of all data transferred during peak hours going through the protocol. HTTP traffic comes in second with 7.5% and Dropbox gets a notable mention with 1.2% of all upstream traffic during peak hours.


BitTorrent usage remains high in other regions as well, and highest of all in Asia-Pacific where it’s credited for 21.6% of total Internet traffic during peak hours. In Europe and Latin America this percentage is 17.4% and 10.2% respectively.

Another trend we noticed is that SSL traffic, used for some VPN services, has increased significantly over the past months. In North America upstream traffic over SSL more than doubled its share in a year, from 2.5% to 5.4%. Again, in terms of actual traffic this increase has been even greater and similar patterns are observed in other regions.

In part this boom in SSL traffic may be explained by the increase in VPN usage among BitTorrent users. A significant percentage of users hide their IP-address behind a VPN or proxy and the numbers are expected to go up even further in the future.

This increase in VPN use also means that the actual percentage of BitTorrent traffic is even higher, since the Sandvine report puts the traffic generated by these users in the SSL category.

It will be interesting to see how the “six-strikes” crackdown in the United States and similar measures around the world will accelerate this upward trend for encrypted traffic, and whether BitTorrent traffic continues to grow in the years to come.


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