Report: Netflix Accounts For Up To 20% Of Downstream Bandwidth In U.S.

If you needed anymore convincing that streaming video is now a big deal for Netflix, a new study says that, during certain parts of the day, streams from Netflix account for around 1/5 of the downstream traffic in the U.S.


Netflix represents more than 20% of downstream Internet traffic during peak times in the U.S. — and is heaviest in the primetime hours of 8 to 10 p.m., according to a new report from bandwidth management equipment vendor Sandvine.

Of course, as I write this, the Netflix site that should be sending out all those movies and TV shows appears to have gone a bit bonkers.

Reads a statement currently on the site:

We’re sorry, the Netflix website and the ability to instantly watch movies are both temporarily unavailable.

However, our shipping centers are continuing to send and receive DVDs so your order is in process as usual.

Our engineers are working hard to bring the site and ability to watch instantly back up as soon as possible.

Netflix Customers Consume 20% of Bandwidth During Peak Times [Hacking Netflix]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ARP says:

    Count on more and more ISP’s to cap download speeds or amounts to get in on this action. And with net neutrality gone, count on ISP’s to start reducing the priority of traffic that causes them to lose money (i.e. Netflix v. OnDemand offerings).

    • Endgame says:

      I concur sir, Just like AT&T got rid of Unlimited Data plans for the IPhone(at least new ones). I see this coming to wired broadband as well. Both Cable and Telecom providers will start losing money on their Television and “on demand” offerings. You may start to see Data limits return from your ISP.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Comcast already has a limited data cap – but it’s pretty high for the average user. I want to say it’s 250GB, but I honestly don’t remember.

        This was never ever dicalred to me, but while logged into their online system, I happened to catch a meter that showed my usage for the month.

        • jessjj347 says:

          Unless you have a multiply person household…it’s not really per person unless you live alone.

        • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

          250GB/month is correct. We reached that limit, having two Asian girls in our home.(They each stream 4 hours/day) We moved to Comcast Business class with supposedly no cap 22/5 service and it has been very good; even the support is good.

    • jessjj347 says:

      Why is net neutrality gone?

    • kujospam says:

      If they cap it I will simply form my own ISP and see if my neighbors want to join for a fee. There is technically already a cap on everyones ISP. It’s called the Download and upload speed. And if you listen to ISP complain, they are complaining they don’t have enough bandwith. Which has nothing to do with how much you download, but the speed at which you do it at, and when you do it at.

      • PSUSkier says:

        On your connection, no you’re right, download caps have nothing to do with bandwidth. However, when you start going up to the aggregation links (think the next hop into the ISP), download caps quickly equate to bandwidth because there isn’t enough bandwidth to serve every customer with their full bandwidth. The caps give the incentive to not be cranking your modem every second of every day and that leads to a more balanced, less congested network in the core and distribution layers.

        That said, ISPs need to just start spending more on expanding their networks. If I paid for “unlimited Internet” I damn well better get it (and I have business class, so I do but most people don’t).

  2. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    “North American households use a median of 4 Gigabytes per month of Internet bandwidth, whereas in Asia-Pacific region the median is 12 Gigabytes.”

    Heh, I probably use at least 4 gigabytes per week and sometimes that much in a single day.

    • DanRydell says:

      I wonder what the average is. A small percentage of users account for a high percentage of total bandwidth.

      • Aesteval says:

        I checked what Netflix was using one time and a ‘HD’ quality stream ended up coming in at about 2.6 GB for about a 90 minute movie.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Between streaming Netflix on my iPhone and streaming at home, I think Netflix is paying for itself every single day. I watched an entire season of TV through streaming – that’s $25-$50 saved right there because I would’ve had to buy the show otherwise. I love streaming through Netflix.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I’m watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on it right now. Next I think I’ll try Dexter. I’m loving this because if I don’t have a channel or can’t watch a show because of when it’s on, I can still get to it eventually.

  4. RandomHookup says:

    Let’s see…

    Netflix 20%
    Bittorrent 10%
    Pr0n 66%
    Forwards of emails from Nigerian scammers and cute pictures of kitties 3%

  5. frank64 says:

    Netflix is an ever increasing threat to the cable industry that provides much of the internet. I see problems coming!

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    It accounts for a whopping 20% because our internet is being throttled.

  7. nbs2 says:

    Thanks to Watch Instantly, I can enjoy* streaming media for my nearly 5 hours of commuting each day.

    *Subject to ATT’s ability to provide the throughput on a 5 bar 3G connection, especially in the evenings.

    • DanRydell says:

      Poor reception likely isn’t responsible for your throughput issues. Wireless bandwidth is not a virtually limitless resource like wired bandwidth is. The throughput of a tower is limited not by AT&T’s desire to provide bandwidth, but by the width of the spectrum band (that’s where the term “bandwidth” comes from) that the FCC has allocated to cellular communications.

      While the wired Internet can easily expand to handle more traffic, the wireless Internet cannot grow so easily. The popularity of iPhones and iPhone clones was bound to cause growing pains, because the people who use those types of phones have vastly different usage habits than the typical smartphone user just a few years ago. Really, it hasn’t been more than a few years since Verizon’s $25 data plan had a 10 MB cap.

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        I’m not sure I buy that. A cell tower only needs to support its cell, from there the data travels via landlines or microwave. Cable companies sell backhaul service to the wireless companies. Where there is high population density, you need more cell sites especially with GSM.

    • bubby1124 says:

      Who commutes 5 hours a day?

      • nbs2 says:

        I do. I could cut it down to about 2 hours if I drove to work. Instead, I:

        walk 20 minutes to the bus stop
        ride the bus 30 minutes to the train station (50m)
        ride the train 1h 20m to the train station (2h 10m)
        walk 20 minutes to work (2h 30m)

        walk 20 min to the train station (2h 50m)
        ride the train 1h to the train station (3h 50m)
        ride the bus 40m to the bus stop (4h 30m)
        walk 10m to home (4h 40m)

        Tack on the inevitable delays on the train in both directions, and you are looking at a solid 5h each day.

        That extra three hours each day is my solid middle finger to anybody that says that I don’t do enough “for the environment.” I’d love to see one of those people get off their high horse and spend a week commuting with me.

  8. axiomatic says:

    And if I were Netflix I would be applying loads of lobbying money to US lobbyists and tell the US ISPs and Wireless companies to stop fucking around and deploy a much faster internet US wide.

    The US inability to compete at (last mile) internet speeds with other countries is unacceptable.

    I don’t want to hear any BS about America is bigger either. These fat cats can go one year without fat bonuses and apply the $$$ to net infrastructure.

    I’ve gone without bonuses for the last 6 years, its time “the top” felt the pain too.

    Oh and for the FCC… if there was real competition and not these silo’d monopolies and duopolies in the major metroplexes this would not be an issue.

    • CookiePuss says:

      Thats what I was hoping for too. Not just Netflix but a plethora of other companies that rely heavily on streaming media.

      Some ISPs have such low caps with no other alternatives to switch to. My cable ISP has an 80GB/month download cap on their highest 15/2Mbs plan. There is no option of even paying per GB if you go over 80GBs, 3 times and they cut your service. Its like their stuck in the early 90’s thinking over 80GB’s of downloaded data is abuse of the network.

      An average HD encoded movie is 4GB. Theres games that are 20+GB’s on steam. Even watching low res shows on Hulu adds up quick. If I had a choice even for slower DSL without caps I’d jump on it but theres no other options around here. Makes me a sad panda. :(

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Yes, because it’s all the money going to the “fat cats.” Look at Comcast. If you dropped compensation for the top five people at the company to _zero_ for the year, you’d have enough to increase Comcast’s network investment by about 1.5%.

  9. suez says:

    If only I could get it to work for me! I have a PS3 and it’s been fine with the disk as long as I’ve had it. When I switched to the no-disk version two nights ago, it’s been nothing but problems, even after a 20-minute call with their tech help. They were just as baffled. Then it suddenly started working…and now it’s not working again. It’s seriously bugging me now.

    • Mamudoon says:

      I use their instant streaming to my computer (best $9 a month I’ve ever spent!), and their servers have been down all day for me, and their service has been kinda spotty over the past few days. I guess they’re just having some problems, but before that, everything worked perfectly. I’m sure they’ll have everything cleared up shortly.

    • Goatweed says:

      chances are the servers that sony and/or netflix got HAMMERED by people downloading the app and using all of the functionality they now have. I had a hard time too, I waited till around midnight and it seemed much snappier. As time goes by I’m sure they’ll beef things up behind the scenes and as usage falls to normal levels, all will be well.

      I recall when Xbox was having similar issues with new services and they had to do the same thing.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Yep, they’ve been having some technical issues the last day or two. I couldn’t stream through my app yesterday, but I haven’t tried it since. I saw it wasn’t working, remembered Netflix reported issues earlier in the day, and shrugged. Read a few blogs on my way home instead.

  10. quirkyrachel says:

    I suspect they also account for 20% of items still sent by USPS.

  11. Copper says:

    I love Netflix. That is all.

  12. brianisthegreatest says:

    Wow, that’s a very very high percentage for one website. I wouldn’t be surprised if ISP’s went after services like this, when they are done complaining about BitTorrent. It’s sad that there is all this push for digital distribution online, and the ISP’s just want to cut less bandwidth to users per month. It’s amazing how high speed services are advertised to us, but how little they wish to accommodate bandwidth (even speeds you pay for) when you go to that website they showed you in their commercial.

  13. Draw2much says:

    We just switched from the PS3 Disc to the program for Netflix. I really like it, better than the 360s version. Netflix FTW!

    Netflix has been adding a lot of newer movies and shows over the last couple of weeks too. Hurrah! Netflix is some of the best money every spent on entertainment.

  14. AnthonyC says:

    I assume this also means Netflix’s servers account for 20% of all uploads, nationally?

    After all, every bit downloaded needs to have been uploaded first.

    • notserpmh says:

      No, it doesn’t. I’m not sure if you are joking or just don’t understand, so sorry if I am just missing the joke, but the video may have never been “uploaded”, at least over the Internet.

      They could just say rip a DVD (not how its done, but whatever) directly to their server, then everyone downloads that same copy. No one ever uploads it. There is some traffic going back the other way (upload) for things like “send me the next chunk of video”, etc, but it is minimal compared to the bandwidth used for downloading streaming video.

  15. NeverLetMeDown says:

    Interesting report. Also shows how skewed the distribution of broadband usage is. The top 10% of users in a given month are 60% of the traffic, while the bottom 50% of users are just 5% of traffic. It’s even more skewed if you look at upstream (which is dominated by file sharing), the top 1% of users are 41% of traffic.

    Overall, the median user uses ~4GB per month, while the top 1% use 290GB (on average), the report says it wasn’t “uncommon” to find users who logged 5TB in a month. That’s 15Mbps 24/7 for an entire month.

  16. evilpete says:

    sounds like Netflix needs to start looking into using multicast

  17. gman863 says:

    I wonder if this has anything to do with my Comcast ISP service periodically sputtering or crapping out for a few minutes at a time – especially in the evenings.

    I also wonder if I’m getting especially not-so-good service since I recently ditched their phone and cable service in favor of Vonage and DirecTV.

  18. majortom1981 says:

    I am glad i dont have to worry about being capped on download since cablevision stopped any kind of capping about 2 years ago.

  19. JeramieH says:

    I love NetFlix streaming – it’s pretty much replaced my TV and DVD collection entirely.

    “I assume this also means Netflix’s servers account for 20% of all uploads, nationally? fter all, every bit downloaded needs to have been uploaded first.”

    A movie only has to be uploaded once before it can be downloaded thousands of times, and I’m sure the conversion is done in-house within NetFlix so their uploading is all internal anyway.

    “sounds like Netflix needs to start looking into using multicast”

    Multicast only works if everybody is watching the same thing at the same time. That’s no on-demand and no pause/rewind/ff.

  20. crugg says:

    So people downloading illegal movies and music are not hogging all the bandwidth? But the music and movie industry said they were and that is why companies are capping, right? What is going on here?

  21. Sword_Chucks says:

    Im grateful for Clear who said they wont throttle or have caps. Lemme see, I’ve watched 55 episodes of Battlestar Galactica over the last 3 weeks, and I believe I saw 1.5GBs for 1Hour of video, puts me somewhere around 36.5 hours, which means about 54.5 GB of data downloaded over 3 weeks.

  22. swanksta says:

    That’s what I love about mediacom they have what I would refer to as a soft limit. In their tos it says something about not disrupting traffic in your area by using too much bandwidth but the first couple months after I found steam I used over 200GB a month with not a peep from the isp.