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May 15, 2013

Netflix More Than Doubles Mobile Usage as Subs Take to Longer-Form Video

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Mobile video streaming continues to be the trend to watch as devices and tablets cater to higher-definition content, with larger screen sizes, strengthening the market for longer form video on mobile. Proof is in the pudding when considering that Netflix—whose content staple is mostly long-form—has doubled its mobile data usage share in North America in the last 12 months, according to the Sandvine (News - Alert) Global Internet Phenomena Report 1H2013.

"We predict from this data that 2013 will be the year long-form video will make its move onto mobile networks," said Dave Caputo, CEO at Sandvine, in a statement. "This, combined with increased consumption of real-time entertainment on mobile networks globally, and the doubling of Netflix traffic on mobile networks in North America, suggests that users are getting comfortable with watching longer form videos on their handheld devices."

Caputo may be right about the trend lines, but to put it in perspective, YouTube (News - Alert) still remains atop the heap by a wide margin, thanks in no small part to its embedded app status on most smart devices. It still accounts for more than 20 percent of mobile downstream traffic in North America, Europe and Latin America, and totals 27.33 percent of mobile web peak usage in North America alone. In contrast, Netflix’s share went from just 2.24 percent to the also-small 3.98 percent over the course of the past year.

Netflix traffic, however, still comprises about a third of overall Internet consumption in the U.S., standing at 32.3 percent of downstream traffic in North America, and has been holding steady.

“While we observed that their share of traffic decreased by a fraction of a percent since our 2H2012 study, it should not be interpreted as a decline in the popularity of the service at the expense of their competitors,” the study noted. “In fact, competing pay-video services such as Amazon (1.31 percent) and HBO Go (0.34 percent) saw their relative share decline in a greater amount than that of Netflix.”

YouTube is gaining fast though, accounting for 17.11 percent downstream traffic during peak usage—a possible result of its channels and original content strategy as it continues to move away from its user-generated content roots.

It should also be worth noting that tablets and smartphones may be mobile devices, but they consume more than 20 percent of all fixed data in North America. This is the “home roaming” phenomenon, or the concept of subscribers voluntarily offloading mobile traffic onto Wi-Fi networks at home and at public hotspots, to save their mobile broadband plan allotments.

Home roamers also favor Apple (News - Alert) devices – iPads, iPhones, iPods, AppleTVs and Mac represent 45 percent of all audio and video streaming on North American home networks. The iPad accounts for 10 percent just on its own.

The overall volume of video on communication networks is, of course, increasing, with implications for service providers and consumers alike. On wireline networks, mean monthly usage is now 44.7 GB, a 39 percent year-over-year increase from 32.1 GB. On mobile networks, mean monthly usage increased by 25 percent from 312.8 MB to 390.1 MB—driven mainly by upgrades in coverage and capacity for 3G and continued rollouts of 4G networks.

Going forward, Sandvine expects the World Cup 2014 next June in Brazil to be the event that shapes the next evolution of streaming video. It predicts that it will be the most streamed event to date, and is likely to be an important test case for the power of mobile streaming in real-time entertainment environments.

In terms of global data usage, Sandvine offered a few regional tidbits: European mobile monthly usage increased 25 percent to reach 311MB in just six months. VoIP is on the rise in Latin America; Skype and other communications applications represent more than 7 percent of traffic in that region. And in Asia-Pac, file-sharing applications like BitTorrent (News - Alert) still account for 30 percent of traffic on Asia-Pacific fixed-access networks even as they continue to lose share in other parts of the world.

"This is the tenth year we have issued the Global Internet Phenomena Report and have witnessed the peak of file sharing, the introduction of Skype (News - Alert) and other communication apps and the dominance of online entertainment, namely streaming video," said Caputo.

Edited by Blaise McNamee
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