For many years Cisco has been providing future-looking forecasts of the trends in data and networking to help prepare their clients for the future. Like anybody who predicts the future they aren’t always right, but they are often as right as not and they do a good job of spotting trends and of estimating where those trends will take us. They just released a new Visual Networking Index that makes dozens of predictions. Let me highlight a few of them along with my comments on what I think it means to my readers.
Global IP traffic will triple by 2018. Some of this growth will come from new people joining the web through ventures like Google and their data satellites. But every ISP ought to expect at least a doubling in traffic volumes over this time period, much as has been happening historically. Be prepared to buy more backbone bandwidth and to also have to beef up the electronics that get to neighborhoods.
Busy hour Internet traffic is growing faster than overall traffic. For example, in 2013 the traffic experienced by ISPs in the busiest hour of the day increased 32% while total traffic increased 25%. Since ISPs have to buy backbone services to support the busiest times on the network, expect those costs to climb.
IP Video will be 79% of all traffic by 2018, up from 66% in 2013. Not only is NetFlix and AmazonPrime here to stay, the OTT providers will continue to sell more video programming. This is going to continue to put great pressure on cable TV and should result in a lot of people becoming cord cutters (something Cisco did not predict since their prediction only looks at network traffic). UltraHD video will account for 11% of all video traffic by 2018, up from 0.1% today. HD video will account for 52% of all video traffic, up from 36% today. The desire for UltraHD is going to be a lot of pressure on ISPs since a single transmission will require at least 15 Mbps
There will be as many machine-to-machine connections as there are people on earth by 2018. The Internet of Things will have made big strides by 2018 but will still be in its infancy. What this means for network providers is that there will be a steady volume of data traffic generated by M2M traffic that will not vary by time of day like residential or business data usage. Cisco predicts nearly 21 billion global network connections by 2018, up from 12.4 billion in 2013.
Speeds will continue to increase. Cisco predicts that the average global broadband speed will be 42 Mbps by 2018, up from 16 Mbps at the end of 2013. Within that average speed they predict that 55% of worldwide broadband connections will be faster than 10 Mbps. This has a lot of policy implications since the FCC is looking at changing the definition of broadband. If they only increase the definition modestly to 10 Mbps it will be obsolete almost before it is adopted. If the FCC wants the US to keep up with the rest of the world they need to push the industry rather than trail it.
The US will still generate the most data. They predict that in 2018 that the US will still be the largest data producer at 37 exabytes, with China second at 18 exabytes. The fastest growing continent will be Africa with the fastest growing individual countries being India and Indonesia.
WiFi Traffic will exceed Wireline traffic by 2018. WiFi and mobile devices will generate 61% of global IP traffic by 2018 (WiFi 49% and cellular 12%). This is up from 41% and 3% today. This is a bit misleading since most WiFi traffic ultimately feeds into a landline network, but indicates more the first link that is used to reach the Internet.