Shifting trends in global internet traffic

According to a recent report (www.informatm.com/internettraffic) from Informa Telecoms & Media, internet users will upload and download 1.2 million petabytes of data per year by 2015, around seven times more than in 2010. Unsurprisingly, video will experience the most significant growth due to the phenomenal popularity of services such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix, and will account for over half of all internet traffic by 2015. But other services – notably online storage and back-up services such as Rapidshare and Dropbox – will experience considerable growth.

The amount of internet and service traffic will vary greatly from region to region and, despite the focus on the US, Asia will be the larger region in terms of traffic by 2015. Asia Pacific’s share will have increased to 42 per cent of global Internet traffic by virtue of the sheer growth in user numbers that this region will see over the forecast period.

Much of the hype about internet traffic growth continues to come from the US and Silicon Valley, but it is the Asian internet users that are generating the most traffic. This will only become pronounced over the next few years, as the region’s internet penetration grows.

Asia as a region has strong divisions between developing and developed markets, but even within these segments there are major differences. South Korea and Japan both enjoy the fastest broadband speeds in the world, but their internet consumption is very different. South Korea is the country with the highest per-head usage rate in the world while Japan’s per-head usage is lower than Spain and Italy. There are several key reasons for this difference. The mobile Internet is far more developed in Japan than South Korea. Piracy in Japan is far lower than in South Korea, where acquiring content via online storage sites is a mainstream activity. And the high cost of backhaul in Japan means that online video services are typically of a relatively low quality compared with their Western peers, despite the fast connections that many users have.

And China, unsurprisingly, will also play a major role in fuelling this growth. China will not become the single largest internet traffic market during our forecast period, but it will have a fundamental impact on shifting the online balance of power from East to West. In China alone, Informa predicts that there will be 670 million Internet users in the market in 2015; even if many of these users are not high-volume users, they will still collectively produce a huge amount of traffic.

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