Power Users Driving 'Staggering' Network Bandwidth Traffic: IDC

IDC analysts say demand for online data will cause mobile broadband traffic to double every year through 2015.

An insatiable demand for online data worldwide is creating a nightmare scenario for network administrators who are going to have to deal with skyrocketing amounts of Internet-generated broadband traffic, according to market research firm IDC.

In their "Worldwide Internet Broadband Bandwidth Demand 2012-2015 Forecast" report, IDC analysts said broadband traffic over fixed networks could grow 50 percent every year over the next three years, while traffic over mobile networks could essentially double every year.

Fueling the traffic increase are what the analysts called power users, whose appetites for online data are eating up a disproportionate share of bandwidth, IDC said in the report, which was released March 14.

"The enormous growth in end-user demand for both fixed and mobile broadband services is staggering," Matt Davis, director of consumer and SMB telecom services at IDC, said in a statement. "Despite enormous growth projected in IDC's forecast, it is difficult to overestimate this phenomenon. Fixed and mobile operators will have to deal with a new reality that will tax network resources to the limit€”and perhaps past the limit."

According to IDC€™s numbers, global end-user demand for data will drive up both wired and mobile broadband traffic from the 9,665 petabytes per month in 2010 to what IDC analysts said will be a €œjaw-dropping€ 116,539 petabytes a month in 2015.

There are a variety of applications€”from Web browsing and peer-to-peer file sharing to audio/video streaming€”that are driving the demand.

There€™s also a build-it-and-they-will-come element to the trend, according to IDC. The analysts noted a correlation between faster broadband speeds and bandwidth usage. Essentially, when broadband capacity increases, it leads to new services being adopted and usage increasing.

IDC€™s findings dovetail with the trend officials from networking giant Cisco Systems have been talking about over the past couple of years. In their annual "Visual Networking Index Forecast" last year, Cisco researchers predicted that global Internet traffic will reach 966 exabytes per year by 2015, and that the growth alone between 2014 and 2015€”about 200 exabytes€”would be more than the total amount of Internet traffic seen globally in 2010.

An exabyte is 1 quintillion bytes, or 10 to the 18th power.

€œWe€™re very much entering the zettabyte era,€ Doug Webster, director of marketing for Cisco Service Provider, said at the time.

Cisco officials pointed to the rapid growth of network-connected devices and the number of Internet users as reasons for the continuing surge in Internet traffic. They predicted that by 2015, there would be 15 billion network-connected devices€”including PCs, smartphones, tablets and appliances€” worldwide.

Both Cisco and the IDC analysts pointed to high-definition video being a key driver. The analysts said that more than 50 percent of video and audio streaming will go to connected TVs, an Apple iPad, or another mobile device or tablet.