This week Akamai says it crossed the 100 Tbps threshold for peak network traffic, 100 times the 2012 peak. Video is the engine that continues to push bandwidth demands ever higher. Here’s how live sports, SVOD, and AVOD have been driving the growth.
Growth in video traffic
Akamai announced that traffic on its network peaked above 100 Tbps (Terabits-per-second) for the first time, 106 Tbps. In just over ten years, Akamai’s record peak traffic has increased a hundred-fold, with peaks regularly exceeding 50 Tbps.
The company says the big driver of the peak was “a much-anticipated update to a very popular video game.” It is safe to assume the video game in question was Fortnite. The game was down for two days last week, and it returned with a massive update which the game’s owner, Epic Games, is calling Fortnite: Chapter 2.
While a massive game download pushed the Akamai network into record territory, it is video that got it in the vicinity. Akamai points to a variety of traffic its network carriers, including music, e-commerce transactions, financial services, banking, software patches, healthcare information, and even automobile software updates. However, nothing drives bandwidth like video. Moreover, instantaneous traffic peaks are most often propelled upward by major live sporting events.
Last year, Akamai says that the peak traffic it saw during the 2018 World Cup occurred during the semi-final match between France and Belgium. The game reached a peak of 22.52 Tbps, beating out the second most-streamed game between France and Croatia, which peaked at 20.7 Tbps. The average (median) peak bandwidth per game in the 2018 tournament was 10.54 Tbps, more than triple the average of 3.29 Tbps for the Rio World Cup in 2014.
Growth in SVOD
While sports provide peak traffic records, the increase in SVOD is responsible for the inexorable rise of average network traffic. Netflix launched streaming services twelve years ago. Since then, SVOD penetration has risen in the U.S. to 74%, and in the UK to 43%. There are now 630 million SVOD subscriptions globally, according to Digital TV Research. The total will reach almost 1 billion by 2024.
The rise in SVOD viewing has had a profound effect on average network traffic. Cisco reported that video comprised 14.8 Exabytes-per-month (56%) of the overall 26.2 Exabytes/mon of consumer bandwidth in 2012. At that time, Netflix had 33 million streaming customers worldwide customers. In its most recent VNI report, the company says worldwide Internet video bandwidth increased almost 5-times to reached 66.9 Exabytes-per-month in 2017, or 70% of all Internet traffic. Netflix subscribers increased 3-times over the same period.
Growth in AVOD
In 2012, the online video ad market was basically owned by YouTube. It was attracting 16 billion views a month, delivering 62 billion minutes watched.
Today, premium video has arrived in force. Hulu has around 20 million subscribers watching ads in videos. Services like Pluto TV and Xumo say they each have about 20 million monthly active users. Advertising-supported VOD (AVOD) services like The Roku Channel are in the top five services on the Roku platform. The growth in ad-supported viewing looks set to continue.
In 2018, the global AVOD market generated $22 billion, according to Digital TV Research. The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region delivered the most revenue, $10.7 billion, followed by North America, with $6 billion. By 2024, the market will have more than doubled to reach over $56 billion. APAC will generate $25 billion and North America $20 billion.
Why it matters
Peak IP traffic carried by CDN Akamai has increased 100-times over the last ten years.
OTT video growth is the engine that drives traffic on the Internet.
Many of the company’s peaks have been driven by live sports.
The averages have been driven ever-upward by SVOD, and increasingly by AVOD too.