IP Traffic to Triple as More Users, Devices Connect to Networks: Cisco

Over the next five years, Internet traffic will move into the zettabyte level, hitting 2.3 zettabytes by 2020, according to Cisco officials.

Internet traffic

The rapidly increasing number of Internet users worldwide and the proliferation of personal devices and machine-to-machine connections will drive steep growth in global IP traffic, which will almost triple over the next five years, according to Cisco Systems officials.

According to the networking vendor's latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) for 2015 to 2020, IP traffic worldwide will jump 22 percent a year over the next five years, as the number of Internet users grows from 3 billion last year to 4.1 billion by 2020, and the number of new devices jumping on these networks will rise from 16.3 billion in 2015 to 26.3 billion in five years. In addition, by 2020, there will be 3.4 devices and connections per capita, a jump from the 2.2 per capital last year.

Other factors—including the continued development of the Internet of things (IoT), the increase in video content, the global expansion of WiFi, and the preference of business users and consumers for mobile networks over fixed networks—are helping to create an environment where networks worldwide are under growing pressure for better performance and more capacity as the amount of traffic jumps, according to Cisco officials.

"The digital transformation is happening now for billions of consumers and business users across the globe," Doug Webster, vice president of service provider marketing at Cisco, said in a statement. "Innovation is imperative for Cisco and its service provider customers to deliver scalable, secure, high-quality services and experiences over all types of broadband network infrastructures."

The trends noted in the 2016 report echo what Cisco officials have been seeing for several years. The most recent numbers indicate that global IP traffic will hit 194.4 exabytes per month by 2020; last year, it was 72.5 exabytes a month. The global annual run rate will hit the zettabyte stage—2.3 zettabytes—by 2020, an increase over the 870 exabytes in 2015.

Cisco officials said 2.3 zettabytes is equal to 12 hours of streaming music each day of the year per person, or 33 hours of Ultra HD video streaming for every person on Earth.

Regarding video, the video traffic on the Internet will be four times more in 2020 than in 2015, making up 82 percent of all Internet traffic by the end of the decade. It was 68 percent of the traffic last year. Sixty-six percent will be business video traffic. Video surveillance traffic will grow 10 times by 2020, while virtual reality (VR) traffic will jump 61 times during the five-year period.

Machine-to-machine (M2M) traffic is continuing to be an increasingly larger part of the equation, according to company officials. M2M connections will jump from 4.9 billion last year to 12.2 billion in 2020, which will account for 46 percent of all connected devices worldwide. The fastest growth will be in the connected health consumer segment, while the area with the most M2M connections will be the connected home.

Other trends include the continued shift from PCs to smartphones as the primary way business users and consumers access the Internet. In 2015, 47 percent of Internet traffic was generated by non-PC devices, including smartphones, tablets and connected TVs. By 2020, that will jump to 71 percent. Thirty percent will come from smartphones, while 29 percent will be from PCs.

WiFi's role in the global wireless networking arena also will grow. By 2020, the number of public WiFi hotspots will jump seven times, to 432 million, and home hotspots will jump from 57 million last year to 423 million. The expansion of WiFi globally also will enable more traffic to be offloaded from broadband networks and will offer more opportunities for network operators, in such areas as smart cities, connected cars and other IoT segments.

Given the increasing dependence of consumers and businesses on both mobile and fixed broadband networks, Cisco—in a partnership with Arbor Networks—is including the issue of security threats in the VNI, particularly distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

Such DDoS breaches—where networks are under siege by automated traffic from multiple IP sources—can account for up to 10 percent of a country's total Internet traffic while they're happening, and the number of these attacks will jump from 6.6 million in 2015 to 17 million by 2020. The numbers indicated that more needs to be done to develop better security measures to protect against such attacks, Cisco officials said.