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HTTPS+TLS and IPv6-enablement both in the majority for World Cup streaming

The underlying protocols of the Internet continue to evolve, and massive events such as the World Cup are a great opportunity to see this in action.  A single-match peak for live video streaming of 22.5 Tbps was set on Akamai on Tuesday July 10 during the semi-final in Russia between France and Belgium.  Akamai helps deliver World Cup coverage for a large number of broadcasters and subscription-based streaming services, meaning that we have a diverse set of customer configurations and end-user populations.  Across these customers, we're seeing an increasing use of technologies such as HTTPS (delivering streaming segments over the encrypted-and-authenticated TLS) as well as enabling content for delivery over IPv6 as well as legacy IPv4 ("dual-stacking").

Of the traffic Akamai delivered for the July 10 game between France and Belgium:

* 64% of bytes were delivered over TLS/HTTPS; and,

* 56% of bytes were enabled for IPv6 on dual-stacked (IPv6-enabled) hostnames, although only 22% of this IPv6-enabled content was delivered over IPv6.

IPv6 traffic

IPv6 is the new version of the underlying Internet Protocol (IP) that is being rolled out by network providers around the world as a response to the exhaustion of freely available IPv4 addresses.  Due to the network-by-network roll-out, deployment varies widely by country. Akamai typically sees much broader IPv6 deployment in mobile and residential broadband networks than in corporate enterprise environments. (See more details on Akamai's general view of IPv6 deployment in my blog post from last month.)

Of those Akamai customer hostnames enabled for IPv6, 22% of the bytes globally were delivered over IPv6 (peaking at over 3 Tbps of IPv6 traffic for just this one event).  

While France won the game, users in Belgium had almost twice the IPv6 usage percentage for dual-stacked hosts (49% IPv6 vs 25% IPv6 by bytes).

For users in Germany we saw 41% of bytes delivered from dual-stacked hostnames utilizing IPv6.  This is somewhat higher than our typical weekday average IPv6 adoption stats for Germany, likely due to the game taking place in the evening there while people are at home (where IPv6 deployments by networks is higher than in commercial networks).

For users in the United States, only 22% of the bytes delivered from dual-stacked hostnames utilized IPv6.  This is considerably lower than our typical IPv6 adoption stats for the U.S., likely due to the game being during the U.S. workday, but also due to some streaming set-top boxes that are IPv4-only.  Mobile devices in the U.S. continued to see very high IPv6 usage, with 86% of the bytes to dual-stacked hostnames being delivered via IPv6 in the top-four U.S. mobile providers (which is slightly above what we see for these networks on other sets of traffic).

Dual-stacking content is becoming increasingly important in countries with significant IPv6 adoption as an increasing number of mobile and residential broadband ISPs are transitioning to IPv6-only deployments.  While they make this mostly transparent to end-users by transporting legacy IPv4 traffic as a service over IPv6 (IPv4aaS), this introduces additional possible congestion and failure points for legacy IPv4 traffic.

HTTPS/TLS traffic

With some browsers and mobile device operating systems taking steps to protect their end-users by reducing the amount of insecure HTTP traffic on the Internet, the usage of HTTPS has increased substantially over the past few years. HTTPS has moved from beyond being used primarily for applications such as e-commerce and online banking to now also being used to generally protect the integrity and confidentiality of online content. HTTPS authenticates and encrypts HTTP transactions utilizing TLS (Transport Layer Security, formerly called SSL).  During the World Cup game on July 10th, nearly two thirds of the event traffic Akamai delivered leveraged HTTPS.

Many individual broadcasters had HTTPS usage nearing 100%.  Of those broadcasters with low HTTPS usage, many of them were delivering to streaming set-top boxes and smart TVs rather than to mobile apps.

Of HTTPS traffic, 98.8% of it utilized the most recent stable version of the protocol (TLS 1.2), with 0.8% of bytes being delivered over the soon-to-be-deprecated version 1.0 of the TLS protocol.  Around 0.4% of HTTPS bytes were delivered over QUIC, an evolving UDP-based secure protocol that is designed to improve performance.

Looking forward to 2022

We'll be watching to see how this changes by the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  I suspect (and personally hope) that we'll see most content dual-stacked with IPv6, as well as even higher IPv6 traffic levels due to more networks deploying IPv6 (and perhaps even more consumer electronics supporting IPv6 for streaming). I suspect we'll see both the introduction of significant TLS 1.3 traffic (a soon-to-be-ratified improved version of TLS), more QUIC traffic, and perhaps versions of TLS prior to TLS 1.2 following SSL into retirement.  


While precautions have been taken in the preparation of this document, Akamai Technologies, Inc. assumes no responsibility for errors, omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information herein. The information herein is subject to change without notice. Akamai and the Akamai wave logo are registered trademarks or service marks in the United States (Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off).  WORLD CUP and WORLD CUP 2022 are trademarks of FIFA and are used only for identification purposes and to the owner's benefit, without intent to infringe. Published July 16, 2018.

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