Cisco: Internet Traffic to Triple by 2019

Helping the drive to 2 zettabytes are the growing numbers of connected users, proliferation of devices, increase in video use and faster networks.

Internet traffic

Internet traffic will triple over the next five years, reaching 2 zettabytes by 2019, and that traffic will be mostly high-quality video and increasingly will come from wireless connections, according to officials at Cisco Systems.

In their annual Visual Networking Index (VNI) report, which takes a look at Internet traffic five years down the road, Cisco researchers see more people worldwide using more devices to become connected, sending more traffic over faster networks, and not only consuming more video, but increasingly higher quality video. All of this will continue to put significant pressure on service providers and enterprise networks to ensure high levels of service and few disruptions, they said.

The report was released May 27.

Service providers will have to start building networks that not only can handle the rise in Internet traffic, but also can offer different services that come in different shapes and sizes, and have the intelligence to distinguish the different types of traffic and find the best path based on bandwidth and latency, according to Shruti Jain, senior analyst for Cisco on the VNI report. As users get used to using different devices to access the Internet, "we are expecting a seamless experience among fixed networks and WiFi networks and cellular networks," Jain told eWEEK.

For businesses, such trends as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) increases the pressure for greater attention to such aspects as network security and access, she said.

The numbers in the report follow the same upward trends found in past VNIs—this is the 10th report issued by Cisco—though the rate of growth in some areas can be startling. Jain noted that it will take the first 32 years of the Internet era before traffic crosses the zettabyte level—which is expected in 2016—but only another three years to hit 2 zettabytes.

Two zettabytes is 12 times more than all the Internet traffic generated in 2009—which was 160 exabytes—and equal to 30 hours of ultra-HD video per person in the world.

It's staggering growth, Jain said. However, when looking at the various aspects within the VNI report, it begins to make some sense. According to Cisco's figures, the number of Internet users will grow from 2.8 billion last year to 3.9 billion in 2019—more than half of the world's expected population—while the number of devices and connection will jump from 14.2 billion in 2014 to 24.4 billion five years later.

Machine-to-machine (M2M) connections—fueled by the rise of the Internet of things (IoT)—represent the fastest growing type of connection, and will account for 43 percent of all connected devices worldwide by 2019. Smartphones will account for 19 percent. M2M connections in 2019 will account for 3 percent of all Internet traffic.

Faster broadband speeds also will be a driver, jumping from 20.3M bps last year to 42.5M bps in 2019. A significant factor will be the growth in video use, according to Jain. In 2014, 67 percent of all Internet traffic was video; in 2019, that number will jump to 80 percent. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise, given that Netflix streaming videos account for about a third of all Internet traffic at times. However, it’s not just the amount of video, but the quality—from standard video to HD video to ultra-HD video—that will help fuel the increasing demands on the networks, Arielle Sumits, another senior analyst for Cisco, told eWEEK.

In 2014, ultra-HD video accounted for 0.6 percent of video traffic. That number will jump to 13.9 percent in 2019. The higher the quality, the more bandwidth that is needed. Most of that will be seen on smartphones, which will account for 42 percent of all mobile-enabled devices in use worldwide, according to Cisco.

In addition, 31 percent of connected flat-panel TV sets will be at 4K resolution, the study showed.

Increasingly that traffic will be generated by wireless devices. According to Cisco's numbers, fixed wired traffic accounted for 54 percent of all Internet traffic last year, while WiFi (42 percent) and cellular (4 percent) made up the other 46 percent. That will change by 2019: Fixed traffic will make up 33 percent of all Internet traffic, while WiFi (53 percent) and cellular (14 percent) will account for 67 percent.

The shift toward IPv6 also is playing a factor, the Cisco analysts said. It's essentially enabling the proliferation of the tens of billions of devices that make up the rapidly growing IoE, Jain said.