Today’s networks are an essential part of business, education, government, and home communications. Many residential, business, and mobile Internet Protocol (IP) networking trends are being driven largely by the combination of video, social networking, and advanced collaboration applications, termed “visual networking.”  In fact, total Internet traffic has experienced dramatic growth in the past decade alone. Take a look at this interactive infographic from Cisco that shows key trends and forecasts the growth of global IP traffic from 2013 to 2018. You can choose a category and filter the geographic regions in the map to view the impact of global IP traffic. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI), globally, there will be 20.6 billion networked devices by 2018, up from 12.4 billion in 2013. VNI is part of Cisco’s ongoing effort to forecast and analyze the growth and use of IP networks worldwide. VNI also forecasts that global Internet Protocol (IP) traffic will increase nearly three-fold over the next five years due to more Internet users and devices, faster broadband speeds and increased video viewing. Global IP traffic for fixed and mobile connections is expected to reach an annual run rate of 1.6 zettabytes – more than one and a half trillion gigabytes per year by 2018.

So who and what are responsible for the projected increase in overall internet traffic?


Connections and Devices

Globally, devices and connections are growing faster than both the population and Internet users. This trend is accelerating the increase in the average number of devices and connections per household and per Internet user. Each year, various new devices in different form factors with increased capabilities and intelligence are introduced and adopted in the market. A growing number of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications, such as smart meters, video surveillance, healthcare monitoring, transportation, and package or asset tracking, also are causing connection growth. According to VNI, M2M modules will account for 35% (7.3 billion) of all networked devices in 2018, compared to 19% (2.3 billion) in 2013, (25.8% CAGR). Devices such as smartphones and tablets accounted for 6% of global IP traffic in 2013, and will be 31% of IP traffic in 2018.

Quick Global trends:

  • The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region will continue to be the fastest growing IP traffic region from 2013 – 2018 with a five-fold growth and a 38 percent CAGR. For example, in Nigeria, smartphone adoption rates are increasing and the number of Nigerians accessing the Internet via mobile phone has surpassed the number of desktop Internet users. This increased Internet access and connectivity made possible through cellular devices has positively impacted the healthcare, education and commerce opportunities for many Nigerians, with no signs of slowing.
  • IP traffic in Latin America will reach 8.9 exabytes per month by 2018, at a CAGR of 21 percent. In fact, in various Latin American countries, connections made possible by the Internet of Everything (IoE) are enabling smarter cities and helping improve problems with pollution and congested roadways.
  • The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region will generate the most IP traffic by 2018, with 47.6 exabytes (36 percent of the global IP traffic) per month. With the world’s largest population and the most devices and connections, APAC’s increased network usage will maintain its position as the top traffic-generating region through 2018. According to a report from Reuters, the growth in the number of Chinese Internet users is due to an increase in mobile usage. The number of users who logged on to the Internet with a smartphone or tablet grew by 5.4 percent at the end of 2013. In the past six months alone, the number of mobile shoppers in China jumped by 42 percent.
  • By 2018, the highest traffic-generating countries will be the United States with 37 exabytes per month and China with 18 exabytes per month. Much of the United States’ Internet use will be spent streaming online video through providers such as Netflix. Netflix gained 630,000 subscribers in the United States in just 3 months in 2013, bringing the online television and movie site to 29.8 million U.S. subscribers.

The Internet of Everything (IoE) and Broadband

The IoE phenomenon, or the next wave of the Internet in which people, processes, data, and things connect to the Internet and each other, is showing tangible growth. M2M connections will grow threefold from 2.3 billion in 2013 to 7.3 billion by 2018 and there will be nearly one M2M connection for each member of the global population. Internet Protocol (IP) traffic has risen exponentially and is anticipated to continue along the same trajectory. The speed of Internet connectivity picked up considerably with the rise of broadband connections and is likely to remain among the strongest generators of IP traffic globally. Broadband speed improvements result in increased consumption and use of high-bandwidth content and applications. The increasing number of wireless devices that are connecting to mobile networks worldwide is one of the primary contributors to global and U.S. mobile traffic growth. Cisco is helping service providers understand and prepare for the Internet’s booming growth as projected for the next five years. In my next blog, I’ll go into stricter detail regarding IP Video Traffic and its effect on service providers’ networks. For more information about Cisco’s IP traffic forecast, refer to “Cisco VNI: Forecast and Methodology, 2013–2018” and visit the other resources and updates at the VNI page.

If you have any questions, please tweet us @CiscoVNI.


Ying Shen

No Longer with Cisco