For more than a decade, Cisco has tracked and projected global Internet traffic growth and associated networking trends through the Visual Networking Index (VNI). From day one, the Zettabyte has been a benchmark that our analysts have targeted as a major networking milestone.

When will global Internet traffic reach an annual run rate of one Zettabyte? Well, that day has finally come. According to our estimate, the world’s collective Internet use will reach the Zettabyte threshold for this calendar year on September 9, 2016. Finally… Consider the fact that the Internet essentially began to scale for global consumer and business use in the early 1980’s (see Wikipedia for an independent Internet history). It’s taken nearly four decades of global innovation and expansion to reach this digital peak.


A Zettabyte is a whole lot of traffic (to put it mildly). So, since we’re counting, here’s how big a Zettabyte is:

  • A zettabyte is a measure of storage capacity and is 2 to the 70th power bytes, also expressed as 1021 (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes) or 1 sextillion bytes.
  • One Zettabyte is approximately equal to a thousand Exabytes, a billion Terabytes, or atrillion Gigabytes.

But thinking in terms of bytes alone doesn’t really do this milestone justice. Just for fun, each VNI analyst developed a non-networking Zettabyte equivalency to help visualize and quantify the ushering in of a new era.

shrutiFrom Shruti Jain: arielleIf each Terabyte in a Zettabyte were a kilometer, it would be equivalent to 1,300 round trips to the moon and back (768,800 kilometers).

From Arielle Sumits: If each Petabyte in a Zettabyte were a centimeter, then we could reach a height 12 times higher than the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building at 828 meters high).

ushaFrom Usha Andra: If every Gigabyte in a Zettabyte were a meter, it could span the distance of the Amazon River (the world’s longest river at 6,992 kilometers) more than150,000 times.

taruFrom Taru Khurana: If each Gigabyte in a Zettabyte were a brick, 258 Great Walls of China (made of 3,873,000,000 bricks) could be built.

And while it took nearly forty years to reach the global Zettabye annual run rate, it won’t take nearly that long to reach two Zettabytes. Based on our current projections, the world will reach 2.3 Zettabytes of annual Internet traffic by 2020 (in just four years!). I predict that this little world wide web thing might have a future. To see more projections from our 2016 VNI Complete Forecast, check out our Highlights Tool.


Thomas Barnett, Jr.

Director, SP Thought Leadership

Worldwide Service Provider Marketing Group