Mobile Internet data traffic is increasing at a rate that tests a mere mortal's math prowess. With increases in streaming content, growing connections from mobile device and machine-to-machine (M2M) modules and powerful mobile devices leading the way, Cisco Systems reports in a new Visual Networking Index Forecast that worldwide mobile data traffic is expected to increase eighteenfold over the next five years, reaching an annual run rate of 130 exabytes by 2016.
An exabyte equals 1 quintillion bytes. A quintillion is 10 to 18th power; it has 18 zeroes, compared with a trillion, which has 12. To get your brain around these numbers, this mobile data traffic is the equivalent of 33 billion DVDs, 4.3 quadrillion (that would be 10 to the 15th power) MP3 files or 813 quadrillion Short Message Service texts.
So, really a lot of traffic, then.
The number of connected mobile devices is expected to exceed the number of people on Earth by 201610 billion devices to 7.3 billion folks, according to the Feb. 14 report. Additionally, mobile cloud traffic, which currently accounts for 45 percent of mobile data traffic, is expected to grow 28 fold by 2016, accounting for a 71 percent share of traffic.
The increased use of smartphones and tablets, faster networks and video-rich applications is also increasingly making traffic generators of us all.
By 2016, 60 percent of mobile users3 billion people worldwidewill belong to the 'Gigabyte Club,' each generating more than 1GB of mobile data traffic per month," Suraj Shetty, Cisco's vice president of product and solutions marketing, wrote in the report. "By contrast, in 2011, only one-half percent of mobile users qualified."
The Index additionally forecasts:
¢ The amount of traffic added to the mobile Internet between 2015 and 2016 will be three times the estimated size of the entire mobile Internet in 2012.
¢ Wireless devices and nodes will be the primary contributors to traffic. By 2016, there will be more than 8 billion handheld or personal mobile devices and nearly 2 billion M2M connections, including in-car GPS systems, asset-tracking systems and medical applications.
¢ By 2016, approximately 90 percent of mobile data traffic will be driven by smartphones, laptops and other portable devices.
¢ By 2016, 5 percent of mobile data traffic will be driven by M2M traffic. Another 5 percent will be driven by residential broadband mobile gateways.
¢ By 2016, 71 percent of mobile data traffic will be mobile video.
¢ Tablets alone will generate traffic that will grow by a factor of 62 by 2016, representing the highest growth rate of any device in the forecast.
Necessary to supporting so much traffic, said the report, will be offloading traffic to fixed/WiFi networkssomething that was done with 11 percent of traffic in 2011; in itself, fixed/WiFi traffic was more than 18 times greater than cellular traffic. By 2016, 22 percent is expected to be downloaded to fixed/WiFi networks.
Finally, increases in traffic are also expected to drive connection speeds, as they have already; the average mobile connection speed doubled in 2011, and by 2016, it's expected to increase ninefold. Excellent news. And the average smartphone connection speed? In 2011 it was 1,344K bps. In 2012 that's expected to rise to 1,829K bps, and in 2016 to a very quick 5,244K bps.