Why Broadband Changes Everything

The slow and steady increase in broadband speeds means we are using the Internet more often for more things. Statistical proof of this trend came via the latest edition of Cisco Systems Visual Networking Index (VNI) Study (s CSCO).

According to the study, the average broadband connection is now generating 14.9 GB of Internet traffic per month, up 31 percent from last year when it was 11.4 GB per month. And while a majority of this traffic is coming from online video –- streaming not P2P -– the trends show that we are using the Internet for more than just that. Give us more speed and we will use it all. And then we’ll want more of it.

Communication services such as Skype only increase the daily usage of the Internet. Add to the mix addictive sites like Facebook, Zynga and Groupon, and you can see that the Internet is becoming deeply embedded in our lives.

There is an interesting dynamic of the web –- the peak traffic -– that is equivalent of prime time on television. Peak-hour Internet traffic is 72 percent higher than Internet traffic during an average hour. In an average day, Internet “prime time” ranges from approximately 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. (for the local time zone) around the world.

Here are some of the key findings from the study.

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is now 25 percent of global broadband traffic, down from 38 percent last year.
  • Video — which includes streaming video, Flash, and Internet TV — represents 26 percent, compared to 25 percent for P2P.
  • Over one-third of the top 50 sites by volume are video sites.
  • Contrary to popular belief, none of the top 50 global web sites (by traffic volume) featured explicit adult content.
  • Ten of the top 50 sites were associated with software updates and downloads (security and application enhancements).
  • The top 1 percent of broadband connections is responsible for more than 20 percent of total Internet traffic.
  • The top 10 percent of connections is responsible for over 60 percent of broadband Internet traffic, worldwide.

Earlier this morning I wrote about the rapid growth of VoIP –- 112 million broadband connections with VoIP attached to them. Today, voice and video communications traffic (such as voice over IP [VoIP] and voice and video over instant messaging) has reached 2 percent of all traffic, up from less than 1 percent last year. Here are some interesting voice & video communication-related data points:

  • Skype accounts for 0.57 percent of total traffic.
  • Other VoIP accounts for 0.64 percent of the traffic.
  • In comparison, email accounts for 0.23 percent of the traffic.

Cisco is predicting that video calling will exceed 1 percent of consumer internet traffic by end of 2010. I bet Apple’s FaceTime is only going to help achieve that goal. In summary, I think all these numbers can be tied to my initial assertion: Broadband is the magical driver of all things on the Internet. Thanks to broadband, everything, including the web, changes.

Related research from GigaOM Pro (subscription required):