Over the last decade, the Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index (VNI), our rolling five year forecast of Internet trends has delivered some amazing and eye-popping predictions. Today’s VNI Mobile Forecast update, for example, shows that the deployment and adoption of 4G is accelerating even faster than we predicted just a year ago.

In the United States, just like the rest of the world, mobile data consumption continues to climb, driven by insatiable demand for video, video and more video, coupled with a surge in mobile users and devices, and an expansion of mobile networks to serve the Internet of Things – connected cars, homes, health care and more.

For policymakers, the flood of data traffic has created challenges with radio spectrum, forcing nations to find more efficient ways to allocate this scarce resource. And for the industry, it has created challenges forecasting what’s next. So far, we’ve done very well: in each of the last five years, initial projections have been within 10% of the reported 2015 data estimates.

Cisco is committed to being as accurate as possible on the VNI, as well as being transparent. That’s why we go back every year and compare our projections with subsequent mobile data estimates. Based on this year’s comparison, we reset the 2014 U.S. baseline for total mobile data consumption and traffic growth after incorporating data traffic estimates from CTIA, the Wireless Association. CTIA is the most comprehensive source for historic data in the U.S., since they collect data from wireless telecom operators through a voluntary annual survey.

The CTIA data shows fluctuating, positive, growth in U.S. mobile traffic from 2012 to 2014 with larger peaks and lesser peaks, including traffic growth of 26% in 2014. Based on CTIA’s survey data, as well as a close review of traffic samples and direct data sources that are part of our methodology, we reset the 2014 monthly baseline down — from 531 petabytes to 322 petabytes. This revised number may in fact understate the true traffic growth since some mobile operators suggested on their earnings calls that their traffic grew in excess of 50% between 2013 and 2014. But the CTIA survey number is one of the most comprehensive estimates of historical growth, and our 2014 baseline volume adjustment now aligns with CTIA’s figures.

Over the course of 10 years publishing the mobile VNI, we’ve reported out key trends about Internet traffic, connected devices, applications, and shifts in demand. These data are used by network operators and other industry players, including Cisco customers, partners and competitors, as well as government and industry decision-makers. That’s why it’s so important that Cisco be transparent about our methodology and validation efforts.

The adjustment reflected in today’s report does not change the forecast growth curve much at all. The 2015 growth (year-on-year) is forecast at 56%, and the 2015-2020 compound annual growth rate is forecast at 42%. The fundamental trend lines hold. There’s more devices and more video consumed over faster networks, which will continue to transform the world around us.


Robert Pepper

No Longer with Cisco