WhatsApp, YouTube, BitTorrent Rule The Internet In Africa

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Written by Dana Sanchez

A new report by Canada-based networking equipment company Sandvine reveals how Africans use their mobile and fixed broadband services — few understand what the traffic composition in the region is — and how these differ from the U.S.

Real-time entertainment dominates broadband traffic internationally, but this is not the case in Africa, according to a report in MyBroadband.

During peak periods, real-time entertainment accounts for 8.6 percent of peak downstream traffic in Africa – an increase from 6.6 percent in 2014.

Web browsing continues to be the dominant downstream traffic category, accounting for 35.6 percent of downstream traffic in Africa mobile access.

In North America, mobile Internet traffic is dominated by YouTube and Facebook, according to Sandvine, Wired reports. Forbes in 2012 described WhatsApp as the biggest social network you never heard of.

WhatsApp is the smartphone messaging app Facebook bought for about $22 billion in 2014. It’s popular in Africa because it lets people exchange texts without paying big fees to carriers and people are using it for more than just texting.

From MyBroadband.

Over the past two years, communications applications continued to grow in African bandwidth share as subscribers moved from traditional voice calls and SMS messaging to a mix of VoIP and over-the-top messaging applications.

WhatsApp now generates over 10 percent of mobile network traffic – almost a 50 percent increase in traffic share from the same period a year ago.

In most regions, YouTube is the application responsible for generating the most bandwidth – but in Africa it accounts for 4.6 percent of downstream traffic.

WAP browsing continued to see declines, a phenomenon likely caused by an increased adoption of smartphones in the region.

Africa is the only region where Opera Mini, a web browser focused on data efficiency, is among the top 10 applications.

An examination of fixed access networks in Africa reveals vastly different findings compared to the mobile data statistics.

Real-time entertainment is the leading source of traffic, accounting for almost 30 percent peak downstream.

HTTP at 20.3 percent of peak downstream traffic is the leader in share, only slightly ahead of YouTube (16.3 percent) which made share gains in the region this past year.

The reason for video accounting for a lower share could have to do with fixed networks in the region providing slower speeds than what is seen in parts of Europe or North America, as well as fewer options to stream content legally.

These content access issues could also play a role in explaining why BitTorrent consumes the third largest amount of bandwidth in the region.

Read more at MyBroadband.