South African internet traffic jumped 442,000% in 10 years

Internet traffic passing through NAPAfrica peaked at approximately 2.35 Tbps on Friday, May 20, 2022, an increase of over 441,911% since the launch of South Africa’s largest Internet exchange point.

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

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

NAPAfrica also offers direct access to routing server facilities.

Organizations only pay for the space and equipment they rent to host their servers at Teraco or other data centers.

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

It only had five peers and saw peak traffic of around 532 Mbps when it first launched.

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

Membership doubled in 2016, while traffic jumped to 100 Gbps. It is also the year of the launch of Netflix in South Africa.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, NAPAfrica achieves a throughput of 1 Tbit/s out of 430 members. This more than doubled to 2.1 Tbps in July 2021.

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

The latest weekly traffic statistics from NAPAfrica show a peak throughput of just over 2.35 Tbps last week. This was recorded at 7:50 p.m. on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Although this is not definitive proof of its impact on traffic, it is interesting to note that the peak coincided with the first Friday evening following the launch of Disney+ in South Africa.

To put the increase in traffic into perspective, this is about 4,181 times more than the peak traffic when NAPAfrica launched in 2012, or about 392 times more than in 2014.

As a percentage, this is an increase of 441,911% in 10 years.

Although NAPAfrica is the largest INX in South Africa, there are also several others, which means that the actual increase in data traffic for the whole country is even higher.

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

Over the past few years, Internet Service Providers have declared video streaming to be the main driver of traffic on their networks.

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

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

As more and 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 view content on a variety of devices and generally offer good value for money, outweighing the effort and risk of having to download movies and shows from BitTorrent.

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

Over the past week, there appears to have been a sharp increase in data throughput each day between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., when many households were watching television.

While video streaming is already bandwidth-intensive, high-speed fiber internet packages and 4K TVs have become more affordable, meaning more homes can stream in ultra-high definition.

This can significantly increase bandwidth usage compared to high definition viewing.

Additionally, game subscription services such as Game Pass have made access to new games more affordable.

Modern games can be between 50 GB and 150 GB and can represent large amounts of bandwidth.

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