Big Growth for the Internet Ahead, Cisco Says

Cisco Systems, the San Jose, Calif.-based company that makes a living selling plumbing for the Internet (amongst other things), has come out with a prediction: Traffic on the world’s networks will increase (annually) 46 percent from 2007 to 2012, nearly doubling every two years. As a result, there will be an annual bandwidth demand of approximately 522 exabytes2, or more than half a zettabyte. [digg=]

If these kinds of predictions remind you of the wild-and-wooly claims made by folks like MCI and WorldCom in the early days of Internet 1.0, relax –- these numbers aren’t that bad. And I would normally douse them with the cold water of skepticism, except that my dear friend, Andrew Odlyzko, who was the first one to spot the con in WorldCon’s traffic bunkum and has been tracking the growth of Internet traffic, says he expects, overall, an annual growth rate of some 50 percent to 60 percent.

That’s why I’m happy to take Cisco’s study and its newly announced Visual Networking Index (VNI) seriously. Cisco’s data is actually important to note, especially in the light of the recent tiered/metered broadband moves by U.S. carriers and their demagogy about bandwidth consumption.

Anyway, some interesting findings from Cisco include:

  • Global IP traffic will reach 44 exabytes per month in 2012, compared to less than seven per month in 2007. In 2002, global IP traffic was five exabytes, which means that the volume of IP traffic in 2012 will be 100 times as large.
  • Monthly global IP traffic in December 2012 will be 11 exabytes higher than in December 2011, a single-year increase that will exceed the amount by which traffic has increased in the eight years since 2000.
  • Mobile data traffic will roughly double each year from 2008 through 2012. U.S. will surpass Japan in mobile traffic in 2009. (I guess thanks to the iPhone.)
  • In 2012, Internet video traffic alone will be 400 times the traffic carried by the U.S. Internet backbone in 2000. Representative of this trend, Internet video has jumped to 22 percent of the global consumer Internet traffic in 2007 from 12 percent in 2006. Video-on-demand, IPTV, peer-to-peer (P2P) video, and Internet video are forecast to account for nearly 90 percent of all consumer IP traffic in 2012.

My own observation with regards to all these developments is the continuous contribution of new economies -– China, Brazil, Russia, India, Eastern Europe and the new Nordic nations. A growing number of subscribers and their usage of broadband and mobile broadband is slowly pushing up the demand for bandwidth, which has lead to a huge spurt in the traffic on regional and international backbones. New fiber construction to support the growth in traffic also bolsters Cisco’s claims.

China has already passed the U.S. as the world’s largest broadband and mobile market. India is getting there. VeriSign, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company that’s a major player in business domain names, notes that India now has about 41 million Internet users, making it the eight-largest Internet country. Cisco notes that Internet traffic is growing fastest in Latin America, followed by Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and says that’s likely to be the case through 2012. It kind of makes sense — after years and years of U.S. domination, Internet traffic is beginning to act in a more global fashion.