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Bandwidth Demand, AT&T 2008
Thursday, 11 September 2008 15:00

AT&T traffic is growing 25%-30%/year/customer, with a dramatic shift from p2p to YouTube and Hulu like video. Easily a third of AT&T's downstream traffic is now “web audio-video,” far more than p2p and the gap is widening rapidly.

Hulu and YouTube are taking over, while p2p is fading away on DSL networks. One likely result is that managing traffic by shaping p2p is of limited and declining use, perhaps buying a network 6 months or a year before needing an upgrade. The p2p traffic shaping debate should be almost over, because it simply won't work very much longer. P2p remains strong at cablecos, possibly because downloaders are choosing the higher speeds, but most cablecos are making good progress against congestion. 

     Jason Hillery provided some current AT&T information. p2p is currently still growing but “at a slower pace than other traffic.”  During a period last year, on the Tier 1 AT&T backbone p2p actually dropped 20%, although that's not typical. AT&T Labs VP Charles Kalmanek points out that a shift in customer mix, rather than an absolute drop in overall p2p, may explain that surprising statistic.  A note at DSL Reports suggests that period included Comcast bringing more traffic in house. Around the world, the trend is clear: web traffic continues to grow at something like 25-40% per user each year, right in line with the trend since 2001. Video is growing rapidly, but not enough to change the trend so far. Many of the policy people believe that p2p is a ravenous monster that is devouring the Internet. The data show that simply isn't true.

   AT&T has sensible plans to handle the load without disruption. They are already moving from 10 gig to 40 gig in the core, and planning a transition to 100 gig in a few years. The current projections are they can do these upgrades without raising capex, bringing per bit costs down along a Moore's Law curve and keeping bandwidth costs per user essentially unchanged. Most of the optical vendors believe they can meet those goals, although some worry that the pace of innovation may slow down as the optical components industry is struggling.

AT&T Verbatim
"Overall traffic on the AT&T IP backbone network is growing at a pace of more than 50 percent per year. This growth is a combination of customer growth and growth in traffic per customer. Average growth in traffic per customer is about 25-30 percent per year.

    To gauge the application breakdown of broadband traffic, we measure downstream traffic during the weekly busy hour. With this measure, as of June 2008, traffic was about 1/3 Web (non video/audio streams), 1/3 Web video/audio streams, and 1/5 P2P (with other applications making up the remainder). For the first time in June 2008, Web video/audio was the highest traffic-generating application over our IP backbone network.

As for the trends we've seen over the past few months:
-- Web video and audio is growing at a much higher pace than overall traffic (more than 70 percent/year);
-- P2P traffic continues to grow, though at a slower pace than other traffic;
-- and Web traffic is growing at a pace consistent with overall growth.”