WhatsApp, YouTube, and BitTorrent rule the Internet in Africa

Sandvine has released its latest Global Internet Phenomena report, which revealed what people use their broadband services for.

According to the report, Africa is a region with potential for growth, but few understand what the traffic composition in the region is.

“Thanks to being deployed in over 20 networks in the region, Sandvine is able to publish mobile usage statistics for a third straight year,” the company said.

Mobile broadband use

Real-time entertainment is the traffic category that dominates internationally, but this is not the case in Africa.

During peak periods, real-time entertainment accounts for 8.6% of peak downstream traffic – an increase from 6.6% last year.

Web browsing continues as the dominant downstream traffic category, accounting for 35.6% of downstream traffic.

Peak Period Traffic Composition - Africa, Mobile Access
Peak Period Traffic Composition – Africa, Mobile Access

Over the past two years, communications applications continued to grow in 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% of mobile network traffic – almost a 50% 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% 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.

Top 10 Peak Period Applications – Africa, Mobile Access
Top 10 Peak Period Applications – Africa, Mobile Access

Fixed broadband use

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% peak downstream.

Peak Period Traffic Composition - Africa, Fixed Access
Peak Period Traffic Composition – Africa, Fixed Access

HTTP at 20.3% of peak downstream traffic is the leader in share, only slightly ahead of YouTube (16.3%) 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.

Top 10 Peak Period Applications – Africa, Fixed Access
Top 10 Peak Period Applications – Africa, Fixed Access

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WhatsApp, YouTube, and BitTorrent rule the Internet in Africa