BitTorrent Still Dominates Internet’s Upstream Traffic

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New data published by Canadian broadband management company Sandvine reveals that BitTorrent can be credited for a quarter of all upstream Internet traffic in North America, more than any other traffic source. With heavy competition from Netflix and other real-time entertainment, BitTorrent's overall traffic share is falling.

uploadMany Internet traffic reports have been published over the years, documenting how traffic patterns change over time.

A decade ago, long before the BitTorrent boom began, studies indicated that BitTorrent was responsible for an impressive 35% of all Internet traffic.

In the years that followed Internet traffic distribution underwent a metamorphosis, as video streaming took off with the launch of YouTube and later Netflix. As a result BitTorrent lost a significant share of total Internet traffic, in the United States at least.

However, BitTorrent is still here today and arguably more popular than ever before.

A new report published by broadband management company Sandvine reveals that torrent traffic is now responsible for 29% of all U.S. Internet traffic in North America during peak hours, up from 25% last year.

This means that well over a quarter all megabytes uploaded during the busiest time of the day can be traced back to torrents.

Traffic share in North America during peak hours


The increase is noteworthy as BitTorrent’s traffic share has consistently dropped in recent years, as other data sources grew more quickly. This drop is still visible in the overall peak hour traffic, where BitTorrent went from 5% to 4.4%.

This downward trend doesn’t mean that BitTorrent users share less data, as overall bandwidth usage has increased as well. However, Netflix, YouTube and several other entertainment services have certainly grown stronger.

Looking at the downstream traffic, we see that BitTorrent’s share during peak hours dropped to ‘only’ 2.7%. For the first time, both Amazon and iTunes are now using more data than BitTorrent and Hulu is closing in as well.

While BitTorrent has many legitimate uses most data is transferred by pirated files. This means that Netflix and the others are direct competitors for the popular file-sharing protocol.

Looking at the larger picture it’s clear that BitTorrent remains extremely popular in North America, but competition from legal services is growing.

It will be interesting to see how this trend develops during the years to come. It will certainly take a while before any other data source overtakes BitTorrent in terms of upstream traffic.


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