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Snapchat drives more traffic than any other messaging app on North American mobile networks

Who knew? I didn’t. I had no idea. I thought Whatsapp would have been one of the key contenders. But apparently not. This is according to a recent release from Sandvine. (If you haven’t come across Sandvine, they are a leading provider of intelligent broadband network solutions for fixed and mobile operators.)

Regarding Snapchat, the precise wording on the statistic is:

Snapchat generates more traffic than any other third-party messaging app on North American mobile networks, and on one network accounted for an astonishing 12% of total traffic on New Year’s Eve


Twelve flipping percent? On New Year’s Eve? On ONE network alone? Absolutely astounding. Obviously, Snapchat will be way ahead of the likes of Whatsapp on data usage given the fact it’s primarily photo based. But goodness me, that’s a seriously impressive data point.

I came across the above statistic in the treasure trove that is the latest Sandvine bi-annual Internet traffic trends report, entitled “Global Internet Phenomena Report 1H2014”.

There’s a ton of stimulating points in the report, so much so that I’ve decided to lift the whole of their release for your reading pleasure.

Here we go:

The report is based on data from a selection of Sandvine’s 250-plus communications service provider (CSP) customers spanning North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Caribbean and Latin America and Asia-Pacific.“Just over two years after its launch, Netflix has become the second largest driver of traffic on fixed access networks in the UK and Ireland,” said Dave Caputo, President and CEO, Sandvine.  “This rapid ascent underscores how important it is that operators have business intelligence solutions in place to accurately measure and monitor the impact that over-the-top services have on their networks.”

Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena Report 1H2014 contains findings from fixed and mobile networks around the world, including:

On Demand Video

  • North American subscribers who exhibit “cord cutting” behavior (top 15th percentile of video users) are dominating network usage:
    • Consuming on average 212GB a month, more than seven times the 29GB of a typical subscriber
    • Viewing the equivalent of 100 hours of video each month
    • Accounting for the majority (54%) of total monthly network traffic
  • In United Kingdom and IrelandNetflix is now the second largest source of  traffic during the peak evening hours, accounting for over 17.8% of downstream fixed access traffic
  • The availability of high bitrate Super HD content to all Netflix subscribers in North America increased Netflix’s peak downstream traffic share from 31.6% to 34.2%.Amazon Instant Video continues to gain share, but still only accounts for 1.9% of downstream traffic
  • Snapchat generates more traffic than any other third-party messaging app on North American mobile networks, and on one network accounted for an astonishing 12% of total traffic on New Year’s Eve
  • On an African mobile network where the majority of subscribers have talk and text plans, WhatsApp accounts for over 23% of traffic due to the introduction of a low-cost, unlimited access plan for the service that is designed to drive data adoption
  • On several LTE networks in Asia, third-party messaging apps such as Line or WeChat are used by over 40% of mobile subscribers each hour
Live Streaming
  • Twitch.TV, a live streaming service where video gamers watch each other play, has established itself among the top-15 applications on many fixed networks across the globe, and now generates more traffic than HBO GO on US networks
  • During the World Cup, live streaming of matches is predicted to account for over 40% of network traffic on some Latin American mobile networks
“While the app of choice varies drastically between continents and countries, this latest report makes it clear that mobile messaging matters,” said Mr. Caputo. “To remain competitive in the marketplace, mobile operators must be able to create and implement innovative service plans rapidly in order to meet the ever-changing demands of subscribers and combat declining SMS revenues.”Check out Sandvine’s Internet Phenomena blog on a regular basis for the latest trends, predictions and phenomena impacting Internet usage around the world.


  1. Can someone please explain to me why data messaging services, be it Snapchat or Whatsapp etc, are a threat to SMS revenue? When almost every subscriber plan, at least in the UK, now includes huge quantities of text messages (more than anyone I can imagine would ever need), or, increasingly so, are totally unlimited, how can this be?

  2. Text messages are absolutely lightweight compared to data.

    However the key issue has been the swap to unlimited messaging (ie 3,000 per month fair use). That removed the stupidly profitable 10 pence per 160 characters model.

    However this was, in many cases, eased by the demand for consumers to buy bulk text plans. At least that meant they could add something like £2-5 per price plan for a time.

    And then there was some short term joy at being able to throw in a data plan at another £3-5 per month (or more). Until it emerged that consumers were actually going to use that data — and thereby require the operators to actually have to spend wads of cash making sure their data networks could cope.

    And now when it comes to unlimited data plans, the operator has no price control beyond selling slightly bigger data plans.

    And the voice calls have now had to go to ‘unlimited’ which has removed yet another variable revenue steam. In many price plans the call option is now fixed, so the profit is fixed.

    Remember they used to charge for every text and every photo message. Now they’re getting the equivalent (in some cases) of 2-5 pence per megabyte — and as a Whatsapper you can do way more with a megabyte than 160 characters.

    It’s good news for the end consumer.  Increasingly it’s now all about data.

    It’s not that good news for the mobile operator players trying to avoid becoming a utility.

    For those that are comfortable with it, you can still make a load of money delivering utility services.

  3. Hey Ewan, we’ve had this discussion in the past, but here goes again. The U.S. based carriers saw the OTT messaging apps coming back in 2011 and fought the battle at that point – done, put a fork in it. They decided to give away messaging, basically unlimited text plans, in a bundle package of unlimited minutes, texts, and set data. I was chatting with Chetan Sharma and he estimates 90% of U.S. subscribers are on some kind of a text plan. Knowing this, why would North America be threatened by WhatsApp? As for b2c, too complicated to connect with the OTT players. The short codes have that market covered. Try figuring out, as an aggregator, what OTT app someone is using when you are trying to get out 400,000 emergency messaging notifications. Our platform is ready for it, but you need someone out there able to figure out what app, as we already have for “what carrier”.

    The majority of folks in North America using WhatsApp are those with connections/contacts/family in other countries. To text these folks, yes, WhatsApp is perfect. I think I heard their penetration in the U.S. was like 5%. So no need in the U.S. for the OTT players as everyone gets unlimited texting for the p2p market. Shoot, over here our kids text over 10,000 times a month. What parent in their right mind doesn’t have their kid on an unlimited text plan?

    However, almost every teen uses Snapchat. YES, they still use SMS. Snapchat is more for sharing pictures and group messages, etc. Sort of the Facebook of messaging and quick communications. Once again, for GROUP messages and people following rather than p2p.

    My best,
    Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS

  4. Thanks for the long explanation, but this I already know and understand very well. Maybe I am just being pedantic, but really we are talking past tense, rather than present then? Much as Giff says above, this no longer applies surely?


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