Growing Pains on the Horizon as Internet Traffic Surges

The growing world population combined with an increasing number of smart devices, faster broadband speeds, more Internet videos and growth in WiFi connections will see global Internet traffic surge, Cisco predicts.

By 2016, global IP traffic will hit 1.3 zettabytes a year, nearly four times its 2011 level.

One zettabyte equals 1 billion terabytes. As of 2009, the entire Internet contained about half a zettabyte, or 500 exabytes, of information.

Consumer videos will be the major driver of growth, Cisco predicted.

By 2016, 56 exabytes of Internet traffic a month will go over WiFi, Cisco projected. That’s over half the world’s total Internet traffic.

Cisco’s predictions might be conservative. “Every time we make these projections, the entire industry has been wrong,” Jim McGregor, president of Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld. “The applications and the market are still growing much faster than anyone could have imagined.”

Breaking Down Cisco’s Projections

By 2016, Cisco forecasts that there will be nearly 19 billion connections, as the proliferation of mobile devices and machine-to-machine links drives up demand for connectivity. That’s about 2.5 connections for every person on the planet, almost double the 2011 total of 10.3 billion connections.

There will be 3.4 billion Internet users by 2016, Cisco expects. That’s about 45 percent of the global population projected by United Nations estimates.

Fixed broadband speeds will almost quadruple, from 9 Mbps in 2011 to 34 Mbps in 2016, Cisco predicts. About 1.2 million minutes’ worth of video will shunt across the Internet every second. There will be about 1.5 billion Internet video users by 2016, nearly twice the 792 million racked up in 2011.

Global P2P traffic in 2016 will account for 54 percent of global consumer Internet file-sharing traffic. That’s almost 30 percent lower than the 77 percent of global sharing traffic P2P accounted for in 2011. However, the actual amount of P2P traffic will increase from 4.6 exabytes a month in 2011 to 10 exabytes a month by 2016.

“Let’s hope that the network continues to grow robustly,” Tirias’ McGregor said. “We really don’t know the potential impact of external factors such as a period of high solar activity. Nature and other external factors have a funny way of causing havoc when you least expect it.”

That’s Entertainment!

The entertainment industry has been waging a war against P2P sharing networks for years, suing users as well as the sites that facilitate the activities. However, such action “has curbed but not eliminated P2P file sharing in North America and Europe,” Cisco spokesperson Thomas Barnett told TechNewsWorld.

Cisco is “basically saying that the entertainment industry’s efforts will be ineffective, and on a macro scale, they largely continue to be,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said. “On the other hand, projections like this are based on current trends and tend not to take into account future unmeasured events like increased electronic enforcement and prosecution, so they are likely overstated. They also don’t take into accounting throttling or data limits, both of which are gaining momentum right now.”

What the Future Holds

There’s opportunity for growth in the communications market. The need for enhanced security and intelligence will surge because “service provider networks must adapt to the increasing number of devices that will need to be authenticated to gain access to fixed or mobile networks,” Cisco’s Barnett pointed out. The evolution of high definition and 3D video “may create new bandwidth and scalability requirements for service providers,” and 4G network adoption and growth may ramp up.

“The carriers are well aware they are underfunded for this kind of load, and the [Federal Communications Commission] has red-flagged this kind of growth as unsustainable without massive increases in network capacity,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “We are likely to hit a data wall where massive throttling will have to be imposed to prevent national network failures.”

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