The best example of the increasing popularity of on-demand streaming services is how much downstream bandwidth Netflix uses. It’s reported that during March 2015 in North America, Netflix accounted for up to 37% of all Internet usage. For comparison, Netflix was at 34.5% just six months before that and only at 29% back in 2012.
If you still don’t think that these numbers are huge, just take into consideration how much bandwidth does the competition of Netflix use. Even YouTube, with its 4k videos, sits only at 15.6%. %. Amazon Instant Video and Hulu are hovering just around 2% of bandwidth use.
This increase in traffic goes hand in hand with the expanding number of Netflix subscribers. As of October 2015, Netflix reported 69.17 million subscribers worldwide, including more than 43 million in the U.S. That’s more than double of what it had in 2013.
But what do these numbers mean for regular users? After all, many people still have to deal with monthly broadband data limits. Services like Netflix could quickly leave these users with crippled data speeds. Netflix streams video content in several different tears of video and audio quality. Netflix HD movies are streamed at around 3.6Mbit/s, which translates into roughly 3600MB for a 2-hour long movie. SD quality movies 500-700MB each, depending on the length of the movie. An average TV show episode is approximately 1500MB in HD and 400MB in SD quality.
You can easily calculate your average daily usage by multiplying the total number of hours you watched Netflix with the approximate hourly data usage. Those are 1GB per hour for SD videos and 3GB per hour of HD videos.
Netflix allows its users to manually adjust quality to control the amount of bandwidth they use. Users can choose between low, medium and high quality, or they can let Netflix automatically adjust video quality to deliver the best possible quality, depending on current Internet speed. All of these settings can be made in Playback settings in the Your Profile section. Just make sure you give it at least 8 hours for changes to take effect.