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Cisco predicts 1.3 zettabytes of annual data movements

WiFi to account for >50% of fixed data downloads by 2016

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Cisco has emitted its latest Visual Networking Index, a global study of how much data passes through the world's wires.

Your correspondent feels it is best to take these big global studies with a pinch of salt: it's hardly in Cisco's interests to tell us all that global network traffic is slowing and there's no need to contemplate router upgrades for the next decade decade. But the company points out that it has consistently, over the six-year life of the Index, under-predicted traffic growth. The Index also has a reasonably robust methodology, relying on input from numerous analysts and network operators. Many vendor-commissioned studies use cold calling.

The headline number in this year's Index is a prediction that by 2016 1.3 zettabytes of data will whiz around the world's wires (the company publishes a separate study for wireless connections). That volume will be reached thanks to a rise in the global internet-using population to about 3.4 billion, at an average connection speed of 34 megabits per second. That figure will rise from today's nine Mbps, and may well explain why video downloads are expected to increase five-fold between 2011 and 2016. Much of that growth will come from increases in digital television uptake, which Cisco says will surge from 694 million subscribers last year to 1.3 billion in 2016.

Another form of traffic that will grow is peer-to-peer, which the Index says will fall to “just” 54 per cent of all traffic from today's 77 per cent, But P2P volumes will rise, from 4.6 exabytes a month to 10 exabytes by 2016.

The Asia Pacific is set to become the planet's data drain, the Index says, with 40.5 exabytes a month set to land in the region. That will leave North America in second place, with a mere 27.5 exabytes a month reaching that continent. But the USA will remain the world's premier source of data emissions, at 22 exabytes a month ahead of China's 12.

A few other interesting predictions include:

  • TVs will generate six per cent of all traffic by 2016, a small increase over 2011's four per cent, but will generate 18 per cent of video traffic;
  • PCs will plunge as a traffic destination: in 2011 they were responsible for 94 per cent of all consumer internet traffic. By 2016 that will be just 18%;
  • WiFi enabled devices connected to fixed broadband connections will become responsible for more than half of all internet traffic;
  • The planet will possess 18.9 billion internet connected devices in 2016, thanks in part to machine-to-machine communications.
  • Eight billion devices, including mobile devices, will be Ipv6-capable in 2016.

Lastly, a counterpoint: EMC's annual Digital Universe study found the world made 1.8 zettabytes of data in 2011. Cisco says 372 exabytes of data traversed public networks in the same year. ®

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