South African Internet traffic surged 442000% in 10 years

Internet traffic flowing through NAPAfrica peaked at around 2.35 Tbps on Friday, 20 May 2022, a surge of over 441,911% since South Africa’s biggest Internet exchange launched.

South African data centre company Teraco launched NAPAfrica in March 2012 as a vendor-neutral Internet exchange point (INX).

Peering is free, with no membership, port, or cross-connect fees, encouraging organisations to bring their content and services closer to South Africans.

NAPAfrica also offers direct access to route server facilities.

Organisations only pay for the space and the equipment they rent to hold their servers at Teraco or other data centres.

NAPAfrica currently has three locations where networks can peer — Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.

It had just five peers and recorded peak traffic of about 532 Mbps when it first launched.

By 2014, around 100 networks were peering, with a throughput of roughly 6 Gbps.

The number of members doubled by 2016, while traffic surged to 100 Gbps. That was also the year in which Netflix launched in South Africa.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, NAPAfrica reached 1 Tbps throughput across 430 members. That more than doubled to 2.1Tbps by July 2021.

The chart below shows how NAPAfrica’s traffic changed from 2014 to July 2021.

NAPAfrica’s latest weekly traffic statistics show a peak throughput of just over 2.35 Tbps in the past week. That was recorded at 19:50 on Friday, 20 May 2022.

While it isn’t definitive proof of its impact on traffic, it is interesting that the spike coincided with the first Friday evening following the launch of Disney+ in South Africa.

To put the traffic increase into perspective, it works out to around 4,181 times more than peak traffic during NAPAfrica’s launch in 2012, or roughly 392 times higher than in 2014.

On a percentage basis, it is an increase of 441,911% in 10 years.

While NAPAfrica is South Africa’s biggest INX, there are also several others, meaning the actual increase in data traffic for the whole country is even higher.

Traffic through NAPAfrica every 5 minutes for the seven days from 20 May 2022 to 27 May 2022

Over the past few years, Internet service providers have said video streaming is the big traffic driver on their networks.

South Africans now have numerous services to choose from, including Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime Video, BritBox, Disney+, and DStv’s online streaming.

Google’s ad-supported video platform YouTube is another major traffic driver.

As more movies and TV shows became accessible to South Africans, one of the previous sources of big traffic — torrent downloads — declined.

Video streaming services make it easy to watch content on various devices and are typically good value for money, outweighing the effort and risk of having to download films and shows over BitTorrent.

The proliferation of video streaming services correlates with the timelines of traffic flowing through NAPAfrica.

Over the past week, there appeared to be a sharp rise in data throughput every day between 18:00 and 21:00, when many households would be watching TV.

While video streaming is already bandwidth-intensive, high-speed fibre Internet packages and 4K TVs have become more affordable, meaning more households can stream ultra-high definition.

That can radically increase bandwidth usage compared to watching in high-definition.

In addition, game subscription services such as Game Pass have made it more affordable to play new games.

Modern games can be between 50 GB and 150 GB big and could account for large amounts of bandwidth.

Now read: Britbox blooming in South Africa — what it plans in the coming months

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South African Internet traffic surged 442000% in 10 years