YouTube driving more QUIC-based traffic on mobile: Vasona

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In some regions, QUIC-based traffic delivered from YouTube comprises 20% of network traffic, according to Vasona Networks.

Delivering a better video experience to consumers is front and center for a lot of operators, and Vasona Networks says it’s helping operators adapt to new challenges, including an uptick in QUIC-based traffic.

QUIC, which stands for Quick UDP Internet Connections, is a transport layer network protocol designed by Google to reduce latency compared to that of TCP. About a year ago, Vasona started to see blips of QUIC-based traffic on customer networks, but recently there’s been an uptick, so much so that in some areas, QUIC-based traffic delivered from YouTube comprises 20% of network traffic.

“At this point, we are seeing it mostly with YouTube and Snap traffic,” said John Reister, VP of product and marketing at Vasona. Of course, YouTube is a significant portion of overall mobile video traffic. While Snap is much, much smaller in terms of traffic volume, its use of QUIC is meaningful because it shows that other, non-Google-owned companies are adopting the technology, he added.

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It’s well documented that mobile operators are grappling with boatloads of video—AT&T has said data usage on its mobile network has increased about 250,000% since 2007, and the majority of that traffic is now video.

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The standard way to do secure web browsing involves communicating over TCP + TLS, which requires two or three round trips with a server to establish a secure connection before the browser can request the actual web page. Google has said that QUIC is designed so that if a client has talked to a given server before, it can start sending data without any round trips, which makes web pages load faster. In other words, they’re trying to make browsing “QUIC-er.”

Content delivery protocol changes are unpredictable but seem to occur every few years, introducing new levels of complexity.

“The development work we did to understand and decipher QUIC was more challenging than what we had done with encrypted traffic a couple of years earlier,” Reister explained via email. “Our team is always on the watch for anomalies that we can rapidly identify and respond to. In so doing, we have the ability to continuously improve to help our customers work with increasingly complex traffic management—whatever comes our way. We can deliver solutions rapidly that don’t increase operator costs.”

Of course, privacy continues to be a major concern for both users and content providers. “It is unclear whether we have reached a ‘plateau’ with a sufficient amount of encryption,” Reister said. “As I noted with the rise of encrypted traffic, these changes are quite impactful. Our traffic management techniques can accommodate encryption without breaking it.”

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The volume and the type of video together drive operators to upgrade or change what they’re doing. For example, 4K video drives higher volume; 4K is needed for larger or higher-quality screens. 

“As we evolve to 5G, consumers around the world are starting to use mobile technology as fixed wireless, feeding a wider array of use cases inside the home,” he said. “Virtual Reality/360 video represent different types of experiences and consumption and also drive higher volume. While these are mostly associated with gaming today, VR holds promise for much broader ‘everyday’ use cases.”

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