[Infographic] What’s Using All the Bandwidth?

With more than 2.4 billion people using the Internet for everything from basic surfing and email to online classes to gaming, bandwidth is a critical resource for modern business, learning and entertainment. In layman terms, bandwidth is the total amount of information that can flow through the various rivers, streams and other tributaries of the Internet; it’s not a measure of speed, but of capacity.

Today, entertainment and social media account for the lion’s share of bandwidth consumption. Streaming video giant Netflix accounts for more than a third of total bandwidth usage in North America during peak hours, and the combined tweets, Facebook posts and other social media output of active users make up almost 30% of all social media bandwidth use. And with peak usage outgrowing normal Internet usage by nearly ten percent, Internet traffic is likely to breach the“zettabyte threshold” sometime in 2015 (a zettabyte is equivalent to 1,000 exabytes, or one millionone-terabyte hard drives).

The increasing importance of mobile computing has also altered our demand for bandwidth. As of 2013, nearly one in three website visits were made from mobile devices. Using social media, shopping online, or even participating in an online class can all be done from today’s powerful tablets and smartphones, and with millions of Internet-enabled games, utilities, and multimedia applications demanding their share of traffic, it’s no wonder that mobile Internet use is projected to outstrip PC use by mid-2014.

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