SONY4KAverage monthly broadband usage in U.S. homes is 190 gigabytes per month, according to a new report from iGR Research. More than 95% of this traffic is video, researchers said.

“TV has become a personal activity,” said Iain Gillott, president of iGR research, in an interview. “If you have four people in a household now, that means four times the data going in.”

In the past all members of a four-person home might watch the same thing on the same TV set at the same time. But today, each family member may be watching his or her own Netflix or YouTube choice.

Despite a wider range of choices, however, the amount of time household members watch TV hasn’t changed much, nor does iGR expect it to.

“There are only so many hours in a day,” commented Gillott.

Gillott also noted that households with higher-speed broadband connections don’t necessarily consume much more data than households with lower-speed connections. Noting that his family upgraded to a 200 Mbps service, he said, “If we download a movie, it used to take 20 minutes to get HD. Now it takes three. But it doesn’t mean we use any more data; it’s just that it took longer.”

It’s a different story for households that upgrade from slow DSL connections, however. With a lower-speed broadband connection, households may only be able to view one or two simultaneous video streams, so when they upgrade to a higher-speed connection, their habits may change and data usage may increase.

Average Monthly Broadband Usage to Increase
iGR’s report, titled U.S. Home Broadband and Wi-Fi Usage Forecast, 2015-2020, forecasts average monthly broadband usage to increase substantially moving forward, driven primarily by two things – more households upgrading from lower-speed DSL connections and greater use of higher-definition video.

“What drives usage is more high-definition [content],” commented Gillott. “It doubles the amount of data used.”

Already some consumers are purchasing smart TVs capable of supporting 4K video, which will require about 16 gigabytes for a typical movie – a four-fold increase over what is required for today’s high-definition video content.

Gillott pointed to the example of his son, who purchased a 4K television and spent the summer looking for 4K movies. “You only need a few people like my son and ‘Hello 500 gigs in a month,’” Gillott said.

While some people point to the Internet of Things as a potential driver of greater broadband usage, Gillott discounted that idea because most IoT devices, with the exception of security video, require very little broadband and would have little impact on the forecast.

Another factor that has driven increased average monthly broadband usage, however, is increased availability of WiFi in homes. Less than 10% of broadband homes currently lack WiFi, Gillott said.

A typical home might have one television set connected to broadband over a wired connection, while other devices on which video is viewed — such as tablets and laptops — are connected over WiFi, he said.

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