Global internet traffic up as video dominates

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 25 Jan 2023

Global internet traffic was up 23% in 2022, driven by an upsurge in streaming video usage and growth in traffic across app categories.

This is according to Sandvine’s 2023 “Global Internet Phenomena Report”, which provides details of the latestglobal app usage and internet traffic trends.

Sandvine indicates the report’s analysis is based on data from 177 service providers, representing nearly 300 million subscribers. It covers regions across the globe, namely the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa.

According to the report, Netflix, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Meta, Amazon and Apple are the biggest generators of internet traffic, producing nearly half of all internet traffic during the period under review. The big six firms generated nearly 48% of growing internet traffic in the first half of 2022, it reveals.

While the companies generate a substantial amount of overall internet traffic, Sandvine notes there’s a 9% decline in terms of their percentage contribution to total internet volume.

“This means their traffic is now couched amid an expanding number of app categories and greater number of apps, which are producing more data overall. This is contributing to the 23% increase in overall traffic volume we saw in our H12022 data.”

“Following the historic COVID-driven internet traffic surges of 2020 and 2021, the 'new normal' in application usage and volumes seems to be here to stay,” says Sandvine chief solutions officer Samir Marwaha.

“The rapid acceleration of digitisation led to an enhanced reliance on applications and a rapid evolution toward more sophisticated apps that fuse together multiple functions and features.”

In the report, Sandvine indicates the streaming and short-form video trend has become a catalyst for internet traffic growth.

Video from not only the big tech companies, but also up-and-comers like TikTok and Disney+, is contributing a sizable volume of traffic, it reveals.

Based on the analysis, video now accounts for 65% of all internet traffic. “Demand for video content is soaring, so most platforms are embedding and spreading video within apps to increase views and engagement.

“Our data shows in the first half of 2022, video accounted for a hefty 65.93% of total volume over the internet. That’s a 24% increase over H12021.”

Marwaha adds: "Video is almost to the point where it can no longer be considered a standalone category, as it's now integral to conferencing, gaming, social networking, messaging, and virtually all apps that want to drive interactions and engagement.”

South Africa has seen a host of streaming platforms make their services available to local consumers in recent years, with industry commentators anticipating further growth in the future.

The country now counts Netflix, MultiChoice-owned Showmax, Disney+, Prime Video from Amazon, Apple TV and BritBox among the players that have entered the streaming services market.

Looking at the rise of apps, Sandvine indicates there has been an increase in the number of apps, adding that apps have become more intricate.

It says this is leading to the demise of the web browser, as everything is becoming a web app, containing multiple web pages, feeds and functions – all within a single app.

“Within one app, you might have video, voice, chat and gaming content all in the same flow. For example, Uber is not a single app but rather a series of apps, such as Uber, Uber Eats, Uber Freight, Uber Same-Day Package Delivery, Google Maps, third-party geolocation services, GPS tracking and payment services.”

In addition, the report shows smartphone usage is reshaping app usage and internet traffic around the world.

“We see that time spent on mobile apps has grown from about three hours pre-pandemic, to a global average of about five hours per day, currently. People used their mobiles for things they had not previously used them for: viewing longer videos, video conferencing, file sharing, remote learning, delivery apps (groceries, goods, etc), gaming and more.

“In 1H2022, with people on the go again, some COVID-19 habits linger on, with video-watching and uploading content growing as people leave their homes and do more on the move. Video traffic now accounts for 67.60% of volume.”