Networking

Majority of Internet bandwidth consumed by P2P services

New research from German deep packet inspection gear maker Ipoque shows that P2P traffic consumes anywhere between 49 and 89 percent of all Internet traffic in the day. At night, it can spike up to an astonishing 95 percent.

New research from German deep packet inspection gear maker Ipoque shows that P2P traffic consumes anywhere between 49 and 89 percent of all Internet traffic in the day. At night, it can spike up to an astonishing 95 percent.

Ipoque gathered over three petabytes of information with the permission of ISPs and universities in Europe, the Middle East, and Australia between August and September this year.

According to Ars Technica:

In Southern Europe, for instance, game downloads account for 25.5 percent of P2P traffic. Movies make up 38.8 percent, while pornography is a mere 1.8 percent. In the Middle East, by contrast, games are downloaded far less (6.3 percent), but movies much more (48 percent). Porn also makes up 5 percent of the traffic.

An interesting trend is the use of encryption in P2P traffic, with up to 20 percent of such traffic falling into this category. Increased attempts to throttle or block P2P will surely force the development and use of more potent encryption or protocol obfuscation.

With the above sample statistics, it is obvious why some ISPs are trying anything from bandwidth throttling to outright throwing heavy users off their networks to conserve bandwidth.

Who do you think will eventually win this cat and mouse game? Will deep inspection technology become so advanced that no amount of encryption or obfuscation will throw them off?

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About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

39 comments
Fregeus
Fregeus

P2P can be a lot of things really. When i download a patch from Blizzard for Wow, when i download whitepapers from TR, when I download drivers from some manufacturer. The Internet is based on this sharing of information isn't it? How can a provider think of cutting P2P users when the Internet is all abour P2P. They need to increase available bandwidth, not kill transfer sessions. At least, that's my take. TCB

jneilson
jneilson

We can end internet porn while we're at it by doing away with peoples sex drives.

W.E.
W.E.

And everybody is scrambling to provide more bandwidth to the home to sell us entertainment, when as evidenced by the above figures, it's what people are downloading. Hmmm.

james.stewartnewman
james.stewartnewman

"who will win the cat and mouse game"... I thought that was obvious - companies that make the deep inspection gear and of course lawyers......

paulmah
paulmah

Who do you think will eventually win this cat and mouse game? Would deep inspection technology become so advanced that no amount of encryption or obfuscation can throw them off?

zen71001
zen71001

Hi I guess that the samples were taken from University networks and ISP's deliberately chosen as a "non random sample". Because including universities in the sample will seriously skew the results because Students typically get free internet access in the labs and dorms and will often be very high use users of peer to peer technologies. I am therefore not at all surprised that P2P usage rose to an incredible 95% at night because thats just what I would expect from a typical college dorm. But it is not typical of an office block at night. Still if you were selling packet inspection and traffic shaping systems you would want the results of your "test" to be as scary as possible.

NolandQQ
NolandQQ

How is that configured? Master, slave, cable select or as and array?

iab
iab

Interesting the Middle East is MUCH higher in porn consumption. I wonder if it is coming from the United States????????? George W's secret initiative?

andrews.donald
andrews.donald

it may take awhile, but the customer will win out in the end. Of course with that said, the suppliers,(vendors) will find a way to make more money in the end. That is the way capitalism works.

piook
piook

First of all, people will find a way to get the services they want, so even if the ISP's had the right to execute those that are using p2p to download too much, you would still have people using p2p. Look at either alcohol or drug prohibition. Secondly, if the United States and the rest of the world would develop a broadband policy (especially in the U.S. where Broadband is define as anything over 512 KB) that would get broadband speeds and accessibility up, p2p would not be as much of an issue. Look at Japan or Korea where the majority of residents have LAN speed (both up and down) Broadband, where on can Download a movie in a matter of 2 minutes. If speeds were this way in the U.S. and the rest of the world then p2p would not really be needed because I could upload something as fast as I could download it. So the bottleneck that p2p overcomes is removed completely when upload speeds match download speeds. Keep in mind that this Asynchronous way of providing Bandwidth was a way for the ISP's to prevent people running servers out of their homes. Which is why business class service costs more. Which brings me to my last point, Businesses are able to get better speeds for more money but their are a couple of things that need to be kept in mind. First is that unless you are going with a T1/T3 you are not really getting that much more bang for your buck in terms of per second bandwidth. For example AT&T's business class DSL costs almost 2x what their premier home DSL costs and as far as per second bandwidth one actually loses downstream bandwidth from 6 MBPS to 3 MBPS, but then they gain upstream from 768KBPS to 3MBPS. So you are getting around the same amount of "overall" per second bandwidth. One should also consider that Business class services including the afforementioned AT&T DSL does not charge by what it offers on a per second basis. Instead they charge you for the amount of aggregate Bandwidth actually used over the course of a Month/Year. So even thought one is able to max out at a given MBPS for any given time, one cannot run at those speeds or anywhere near those speeds consistently with out paying an additional premium for going over that month/year's bandwidth allotment. So paying for a business class ISP is not something that the average p2p downloader would benefit from at all. Now someone who was uploading more than they were downloading might benefit, but that is another debate all together.

godlessheathen
godlessheathen

I'm a little confused. You pay your ISP an agreed upon amount to use the Internet. Whether I use it all day to check my email or use P2P for whatever purpose should not matter. When you sign up, they do not say "You are only allowed to use "X" bandwidth for this price..." so why would they need to try and restrict how much you use if you are not given a limit?

raisch
raisch

Characterizing attempts by broadband ISPs to throttle file sharing by customers as a "cat and mouse game" further obfuscates the real issue, while continuing to demonize P2P as a tool only used by thieves. What most seem to miss or willfully ignore is that the standard broadband ISP business model doesn't support connecting users to ?The Internet?, a network _designed specifically to support peer-to-peer communication._ Rather it provides a peculiar kind of "Internet access" where users are expected to spend the vast majority of their time "consuming" from the Internet rather than "publishing" to it. This is clearly seen in the current "shared pipe" design of broadband networks, the use of phrases like "up to N times faster than" in marketing and service contracts lacking any guarantee of connectivity, speed or throughput. How did broadband in the United States evolve to only support this distorted idea of the Internet? Why do U.S. broadband ISPs wish to control how their customers use the Internet, forcing them into pre-defined patterns of usage and disallowing certain behavior or content? While the reasons might appear complicated, they really boil down to one simple but insoluble problem: the only ways we currently have to deliver broadband Internet service to users are owned and operated by companies that have no incentive to do so. Contrary to how broadband ISPs would like us to use it, the Internet was designed to support a model of communication that makes no technical distinction between those that publish and those that consume information. It is this egalitarian approach to network design that is the true power behind the Internet and what people refer to when they call the Internet a "dumb network" where "all the intelligence is pushed out to the edge." In the ?point-to-point? design of the Internet, the network is only responsible for moving information from place to place, not for knowing what the information is or how it might be used. The ?intelligence? -- all the ways we use information unrelated to transport like how it is compressed, encrypted, stored, or presented -- is the responsibility of the devices we connect to it. Since information sent over such dumb networks can easily be made ?opaque? or hidden from inspection, dumb networks like the Internet should be called ?data networks? since all they can deliver is raw, undifferentiated data. The opposite model is of a "smart" network where all the intelligence resides in the network itself and all devices that connect to it are dumb. Both our telephone and cable networks were designed to be ?smart?, where telephones or televisions lack all but the most rudimentary ability to control or manipulate the information they produce or receive. Because of this, all decisions regarding how, when and where information is delivered must be controlled by the network. Smart networks are designed to only deliver specifically permitted information (like audio, video, text, graphics, games, etc.) between pre-determined sources and destinations. For this reason, smart networks should really be called ?content networks? since they deliver information requiring management and control. Due to this distinction between ?dumb? and ?smart? networking, the idea of a point-to-point data communications network is clearly incompatible with that of ?content networking?, especially so when we consider how companies that own and operate content networks are organized around the value of the content they deliver. This is why all content network operators fear any use of their networks they cannot control; why telephone companies treat customers wishing to provide xDSL services to consumers poorly or cable companies provide little support for community-based programming other than that forced upon them by regulatory law. It is now becoming clear to operators of content networks that Internet users are not and never were "couch-potato web surfers" and as more opportunities to deliver packets out of home networks arise, their false assumptions regarding the behavior of their customers will continue to diverge from the true needs of the Internet consumer.

Mabrick
Mabrick

It really is not about who wins or who losses. It is not an issue of who has what right to do what to whom. It is a business issue. It costs money to create and maintain a network. These businesses must recoup the cost somehow. Current fixed price business models appeal to the user but do not help businesses when P2P brings their networks to their virtual knees. Eventually all the non-P2P users go elsewhere and then only a few are paying fixed amounts which amounts to very little. That will not pay for squat folks. A better business model might be to charge customers for packets received to their IP. It does not matter what it is or where it came from. You pay for exactly what you get. Heavy users would pay more. Some would pay much more. My sainted mother barely uses email. She should not have to pay very much for that...period. Yes, this sort of business model will start another outcry from heavy users about corporate profit mongering and the injustice of it all. Those who are masking other IP addresses will have to decide to uncover them or take it in the short. Get over it. This is about business and if the business fails, we all lose.

david.shane
david.shane

Too many IT professionals tend to forget who actually pays for their time. It gets convoluted in big corporate cultures where control is the name of the game. When it comes to Internet usage, my question becomes, "If I can't get what I pay for, why should I pay at all?" P2P is another tool like many others. The power to use it for good or evil lies with the person using it. I know it easier to ban the tool in order to control the 2%'rs. But why impose such a dis-service? I remember a time when SERVICE was the name of the game. I guess those days are gone.

carrigan
carrigan

In my opinion, the consumer will win this game but it will come at a price as it always has. I believe that ISPs will look to benefit from this issue by charging even higher rates for the "extra" bandwidth; which is similar to what we are already seeing in Internet access rates. By charging more, the ISPs could possibly reduce the number of subscribers using P2P services; while sticking it to the "die-hard" who do by charging them more. As one of those "die-hard" users, I feel that if an ISP offers its subscribers a certain amount of shared bandwidth then the user should be able dictate how and when it gets used.

Mav3rik
Mav3rik

I frankly don't see what the problem is. Users should be free to use their paid-for bandwidth any way they see fit. As far as I'm concerned, P2P is a valid use of internet bandwidth and ISPs that block packets or limit the bandwidth should... hmm... burn in the depths of hell. :) And btw, no matter what they do P2P cannot and will never be stopped. Simply because one will never be able to stop an internet user from sharing his/her files with another user.

techrepublic
techrepublic

It's not common, but it exists. With sufficiently advanced systems, *any* traffic can be tracked. The answer then is not stopping it but merely throttling it back so that it doesn't impact the other traffic. Or, having consumers that want to use it pay for increased capacity for that type of service pay for it -- or conversely have those that accept a cap or block of it pay less. The technology isn't the problem it's the marketing and policy -- the technology is here. If a network can carry it, a network can shape/block/monitor it. I know a bunch of people are going to tell me all the ways that it can't be done, or that if you make change x or y it can't be done, but I'll tell you in advance, you're wrong. You just don't know it. And I'm not going to explain why and how, because it's better if more people believe it's impossible, for those of us that are actually doing it every day. -Russ.

libskrap
libskrap

I think the focus needs to be on how to increase the bandwidth so p2p (and other usage) is a non-issue. the current band width available at reasonable cost to businesses and consumers in the US is ridiculously low. it should be 10 or 20 times higher, everywhere. the equipment is available. the co's involved are just milking the low service levels for all they can, instead of investing for the future and upgrading everything.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

P2P is simply a way of distributing data, if that distribution method is crippled, then another will be chosen. Internet users need to transfer data, so this game will never end. Streaming video, audio, software distribution, network games, VoIP, etc all need a way to transmit data between systems, which is why ISP's exist in the first place. If they've decided to block the very thing that creates the need for their product, then ISP's are essentials crippling their own business. P2P is used for many, many purposes, it might be a good idea to understand what you are effecting before going on a witch hunt. I can really see WoW users getting angry, since their game patches are distributed over P2P.

jneilson
jneilson

Eventually the consumer will win. I can't imagine an IPS with a reputation for cancelling peoples accounts for over usage can be a good thing.

blissb
blissb

In addition to agreeing with the majority -- that users should be able to use the bandwidth as they see fit -- I think you've hit the truth of this "study" square on. Yet another application of fear as a marketing tool....

Mabrick
Mabrick

I agree with all that you said. You are correct without a doubt. However, there are networks that exist which are run by these same companies and they ARE designed for open sharing. Such a network would be the MPLS network my company uses. However, this is very expensive. We have dedicated bandwidth in full duplex with guaranteed accessibility. To ensure our contract remains valid we pay a very, very high price. That vast majority of home users would gasp at what a single 385kbps full duplex MPLS circuit costs. Thus, we have ended up with the type of ISPs we have. The consumer demands much for little. Their meager budgets cannot handle hundreds of dollars a month to give them the type of Internet you envision and they account for the vast majority of users. I could have the type of connection you say the Internet was built for (and you are right.) It would cost me hundreds (and not just a few) dollars to have it installed and operated. That just is not going to be acceptable to 90% of home Internet users.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

As one who was on the Internet before Web browsers were the "in" thing, I agree completely. All devices are peers, should respond to ping, etc. I think what happened is that businesses did not want to try to learn something new, so they shoe-horned Internet access into the cable television and hence the "couch surfers" service model came about. I always have and always will see the Internet as tool for people to share information. Point to point is the best, but some people do need the help of a 3rd party to help enable the sharing. The idea of a non-commercial Internet where there are no commercial interests involved( (.noncom!) would be one way to bring the Internet back to its roots. If you wanted to buy/sell/advertise, then you would be restricted to the .com domain( usa.com, uk.com, etc ) . Also, all communication should be symmetric. You should have a single bandwidth allocation with no differentiation between sending and recieving. Notice when you plug in an ethernet cable or connect to a wireless network, it say "xMbps" for your speed, not xUP and xDown. ISP provided connections should be the same.

piook
piook

Essentially it does come down to a matter of business costs vs revenue. If one person is using their per second bandwidth at its max all the time, and some one else never comes close to their max per second bandwidth at anytime, then why are they paying the same amount. I for one would be willing to pay a premium for using my max per second bandwidth more than x amount of the time, just like I currently pay more for a higher max per second bandwidth now. Conversely it would be nice for when I am on vacation to not have a $50 a month ISP bill since I was not able to use it at all. Those that want to be able to download all the time and not pay for it are being greedy. Sure I would love to have a 100 MB up/down connection that could run 24/7 at those speeds for one low cost, but this is not feasible for the ISP's or for the world wide infrastructure as a whole. Think about it this way, if you drive as much as you want for so much a month would you not drive a lot more than having to pay for gas per gallon? Well it is the same with p2p and ISP allotted bandwidth. If one can download more for the same cost as downloading less they will, but as soon as the ISP's cannot afford to provide this service at a fixed rate the system will collapse. The low end users are subsidising the high end users and if there are too many high end users that the low end users cannot support the high end users anymore, then the ISP has to raise rates for everybody under the current business model in use. But if they make people pay for what they use then those that are using it the most pay the most and those using it the least pay the least. Even though I would probably wind up paying almost double, it would be worth it because then I would be able to download at whatever speed I wanted all the time (up to the max per second that is) without having to worry about my ISP bringing me to a standstill as has been happening every night from 12am to 5am. And as most p2p applications allow the user to throttle the amount of bandwidth it consumes it would then be up to the users to determine what they could afford to download a month.

Ian Thurston
Ian Thurston

Throttling is NOT "the" right answer. Accepting that answer implicitly accepts that the ISP should decide what is "good" and what is "bad" internet traffic. In a word, that is not the kind of decision that should be in their hands. As for the technology being there, even the "obvious" exceptions of criminal activity, kiddy porn, and egregious hate stuff aren't all that easy to handle with content analysis, and still have unacceptable false alarm rates, as far as I know. Am I wrong there, Russ

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]Or, having consumers that want to use it pay for increased capacity for that type of service pay for it[/i] I pay my ISP a premium for 3 mbs down, 768k up. They advertised it, I bought it, I should be able to use it. If they throttle it, there should be a rebate.

lesko
lesko

before p2p there was ftp, newsgroups, irc, etc they were not efficient but they did the job. Torrent addressed the bottleneck issue with the single source and there will be another technology that will address throttling. Heck people have found a way to get free hotspot access by tunneling through icmp and dns what more something of a wider spread use like p2p. How will an ISP deal with a torrent that randomly changes ports at a pre-defined window. Maybe creating a tunnel over port 80 and proxying web traffic through it and bundling p2p traffic. etc. The game will never end...

paul.glowiak
paul.glowiak

In today's USA Today, there is a music industry spokesman saying that the reason the industry is doing so poorly is piracy. How can it be piracy when you a) put out a product that is overpriced, b) that has one or two good songs and the rest are crap, and c) get your jollies out of suing dead people, teenagers and others for outrageous sums of money? Here is the article if you want to read it and the comments from the readers: http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2007-11-28-soundscan-sales_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip As far as bandwidth throttling and capping usage, as long as the ISP's get our money, they could care less what we do. They do not want us going to the competition. I did, not because of throttling, but just lousy service. So now my new isp gets my money, not the old one.

raisch
raisch

Most consumers have no need for expensive so-called "Level 2.5" connections like MPLS which provide greater service guarantees than required by broadband. So comparing the cost of a business-class, high-availability and guaranteed latency services with those offered to consumers seems a tad unfair. The sad fact is, true symmetric high-speed broadband is far cheaper in other countries than here in the U.S. Japan, Sweden, Korea, France and Finland all offer 100Mbps symmetric FTTH (fiber to the home) costing $64US a month in Japan, $24US/mo in Sweden, $30US/mo in Korea, and $103US in France. The fastest broadband offered in the US is 50Mbps FTTH, but rather than being symmetric, it's 50Mbps/20Mbps and costs $365/mo. So if we could get 100Mbps symmetric FTTH, it would cost more than $700/mo. I think we really need to ask why we can't get the same level of telecom service as Sweden and even if we could, it would cost more than twenty-nine times as much.

raisch
raisch

Most consumers have no need for expensive so-called "Level 2.5" connections like MPLS which provide greater service guarantees than required by broadband.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Ian you are correct in that deciding what is good and bad in terms of morality, or in other words analyzing content, is both difficult and questionable. I was talking from a protocol/traffic point of view. I'm not arguing whether what is carried over peer to peer is ok or not -- some of it is illegal, some of it is valid and useful. That's a different issue. But from an ISP/traffic point of view, it's useful to manage peer to peer traffic, in fact all types of traffic differently. Just as you might prioritize VOIP traffic, you might throttle back P2P, in order to let everything else run more smoothly. The thing with P2P is that it will continually max the bandwidth for as long as it runs -- when allocating bandwidth and fixing costs, most models never assume this for residential connections, they assume some idle time to share the bandwidth with neighbors. So the economics of buying Tier 1 bandwidth don't work properly any more. As an ISP then I might be willing to give accounts that dont' use P2P or accept a cap, a lower price point. In a corporate environment you might block P2P entirely, whereas residentially you would not want to do this. Liability and content issues are different issues entirely. This is why in corporate environments one often blocks peer 2 peer -- managing the content sufficient to keep from exposing yourself to significant legal liability in your workplace is essentially impossible. Whereas with browser traffic it can indeed be done to satisfaction. In a corporate world, if you can't control it, you're risking a lot by allowing it. -Russ.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

P2P data is now encrypted, can be proxied anonymously over Freenet through TOR, use random ports each time you connect, and encapsulate its data inside of packets that appear to be for another protocol ( such as specially formed "ping" packets ). Yeah, besides throttling down users below the bandwidth they paid for, or just shutting off the connection entirely, ISP's really do not have a way to control P2P traffic.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

if they told you in advance. Then you can decide whether or not to buy their service. It's the changing of the terms and conditions after the fact that I have a problem with.

techrepublic
techrepublic

His ISP needs better technology. "Chase the port" is a silly game to play, on their part, and a waste of their time and energy. However the technology update they need probably isn't cheap, so they're stuck playing games. When I read something like this: ---quote--- Let me count the ways P2P data is now encrypted, can be proxied anonymously over Freenet through TOR, use random ports each time you connect, and encapsulate its data inside of packets that appear to be for another protocol ( such as specially formed "ping" packets ). Yeah, besides throttling down users below the bandwidth they paid for, or just shutting off the connection entirely, ISP's really do not have a way to control P2P traffic. ---quote--- It makes me smile -- I have deployed and used technology that can overcome *all* of those evasion techniques. Yes, really. This forum provides neither the space or the mandate to discuss what those are and I will not engage in such a discussion here. But as I said, the technology is already here. Most ISPs just don't have it, due to cost or ignorance, so in that sense John's statement is true. However some do -- their techs have attended my classes -- and are starting to deploy it in limited areas of their networks. But make no mistake, it exists. -Russ.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

plays "chase the port" with his ISP. He has to change the ports he uses at least every other day because the ISP will throttle the one he's using.

computerd}}
computerd}}

I agree on the rebate, they shouldn't be throttling our internet speeds just because they are getting alot of flak from the RIAA and MPAA. It's illegal to hack someone's computer unless you are the RIAA or MPAA. They shouldn't offer 3-15 meg downloads if they can't handle the bandwidth.

Ian Thurston
Ian Thurston

...you're probably going to get a reworded customer agreement with some nifty weasel words that say "unlimited" means the same as "all you can eat" at a buffet - i.e., "we have the right to pull the plug if you're a hog." My ISP recently advised me that they'd improved my download rate to 5mb down. Yep, but they port throttle, so it's more like "1 kb down", after all

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