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Here comes the zettabyte, says Cisco

2015 the next big milestone, apparently

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There will be more of them than us: Cisco has joined the clamour of voices predicting an explosion in machine-to-machine comms, saying that by 2015, there will be more than two Internet-connected devices for every person on Earth.

Yes, it’s Cisco Visual Networking Index time again.

In the latest round of its ongoing Internet traffic forecasts, the Borg says that by the end of 2015, annual global traffic will get close to a zettabyte a year, at 966 exabtyes. From 2014 to 2015, the amount of traffic will exceed all of the traffic generated in 2010.

For those in the world lucky enough to have broadband – which will probably still be a minority even by 2015 – average download speeds are predicted to explode. Cisco believes user average speeds will rise from today’s 7 Mbps to 28 Mbps over the life of the forecast.

And mobile traffic, while remaining far smaller than that on the fixed Internet, is set to steeple – Cisco expects a hundredfold increase from 0.4 petabytes per month up to nearly 40 petabytes.

The Asia-Pac (excluding Japan, which is good for a handy slab of traffic all on its own) is going to overtake North America as the engine-room of IP traffic. It will contribute just over 24 petabytes each month compared to the US and Canada’s contribution of 22 petabytes per month.

And this is one of the report’s more interesting data.

One reason that America remains the Rome to which all the Internet’s routes lead is its scale. It’s home to the biggest sites, the biggest pipes, the biggest data centres, the biggest transit providers, the biggest everything.

Outside America, this causes some interesting market distortions. Even entire countries – like Australia! – are smaller than one US transit provider, too small to command decent prices as “peers” of the big boys.

And that burns users: one of the many reasons non-US countries find themselves complaining about the cost of broadband is the tithe they pay to land their traffic on the biggest backbone in the world.

A shift in the centre of gravity could, probably on a timescale outside the scope of the Cisco VNI, change this. The region is already home to an explosion in data centre real estate, and in submarine cable construction. It’s also run out of IPv4 addresses, putting it on a forced march to IPv6, and the Asia-Pac plus Japan are also host to some of the world’s most advanced network rollouts.

If data found a more congenial home in the Asia-Pacific region than in America – or even if the Asia-Pacific became a threat to US transit providers’ traffic hegemony – then transit competition could spark a new round of growth beyond that predicted by Cisco. ®

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