Full Speed Ahead Traffic to Increase 18X by 2016

February 14, 2012 - 1 Comment

Today in a global webcast from the Royal Opera House in London, we announced our annual Cisco Visual Networking Index Mobile Forecast, 2011-2016, to a global audience.  While some people may have been anticipating a decrease in mobile traffic considering the importance service providers are placing on mobile traffic offload and the tiered pricing plans being put in place for subscriber, just the opposite occurred.  Even in the face of those downward pressures along with the continuing economic uncertainties, the total amount of traffic in the forecast period is expected to soar 18-fold from 2011 to 2016, reaching 130 exabytes annually.  To put that amount into perspective, an exabyte is 10 to the 18th power of bytes which is a large number in its own right;  130 exabytes is the data equivalent of having 33 billion DVDs streamed in the airwaves around us each year.

Even more amazing is that the increased amount of traffic going onto the mobile internet between 2015 and 2016 is the equivalent of three times the total amount of traffic on the global internet in 2012!   No question it is a massive challenge for network architects but is also a great indicator of the incredible demand consumers have for the mobile offerings of providers.

Some may believe that such numbers may seem a bit hard to fathom, but the VNI forecast, now in its 6th year, has historically been on the conservative side of its projections.  For example, in last year’s forecast, we anticipated 131% traffic growth in 2011; however, when we were able to assess the actual data, the growth in 2013 turned up just a bit higher – 133%.  So if history is a guide, the overall amount of traffic may very well exceed 130 exabytes by the time we celebrate New Year’s 2017.

While analysts and regulators in today’s webcast (available below) and on our social media release, spoke of the credibility of the study, we were also honored to see the senior executive vice president of one of our largest customers, ATT, do the same as well.  Mr. John Donovan’s blog on the subject and the story of their growth – which far exceeded the VNI projections by achieving 20,000% since 2007 (!) is a very worthwhile read and highlights, much in line with the VNI study itself, that traffic isn’t going to be driven primarily by laptops as in the year past but by the ever increasing array of smartphones.  Being optimized for video, having advanced computing power, and applications that can do seemingly everything will have more and more users by 2016 as they view “the smartphone as the new laptop.”

Video streaming by Ustream

There is much data from the study to share which I’ll do in upcoming posts, as well as plenty to discuss – much like our panel did – as to how for providers to manage this upswing in demand.  In the interim, I recommend you check out all the details at www.cisco.com/go/vni , get a customized view of the data by country, region, service or device via the interactive tool, or join the more than 900,000 users who have downloaded the VNI app that will not only provide some insight as to how fast you are on the mobile internet, but will help shape the accuracy of the study all the more in the years to come.

And considering the tablets are projected to account for 10% of the mobile internet traffic in 2016 but didn’t even have their own device category just two years ago (!) because they were so nascent, to me it leads to the question of what else is going to be entering the market that could have a dramatic change on these numbers even further?  A new application?  A new device?

Thanks as always for reading.

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  1. Doug, it seems like the growth in mobile data is affecting every aspect of MNOs’ businesses. InfoVista sees network performance management as a critical first step in overcoming the many challenges this increase presents for them. I recently wrote a blog post (http://blog.infovista.com/index.php/2012/02/28/network-performance-management-the-first-step-in-answering-the-mobile-data-traffic-demand/) on this and linked back to your post. I’d love to hear your reaction in the comments section!