Wi-Fi to Overtake Wired Network Traffic by 2015

Wi-Fi devices will for the first time use more bandwidth than wired devices in 2015, according to Cisco’s (s CSCO) new Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global IP Traffic Forecast. Cisco predicts Wi-Fi devices will consume 37.2 Exabytes of data worldwide per month in 2015, which is slightly more than the 37.0 Exabytes of wired IP traffic the company is forecasting. And Wi-Fi will take up 46.2 percent of all IP traffic in 2015, up from 36 percent of all IP traffic in 2010. The share of wired IP traffic, on the other hand, will sink from 63 percent in 2010 to 46.1 percent in 2015.

Data courtesy of Cisco.

Mobile networks will place third, with 6.3 Exabytes per month, but cell phone network operators will have to adapt faster than anyone else to growing data consumption: Mobile IP traffic will grow 26 times over the period, compared to three-fold growth for wired and five-fold growth for Wi-Fi traffic. Mobile will make up 8 percent of global IP traffic in 2015. Last year, mobile users only consumed 237 Petabytes per month, which accounted for 1 percent of the global IP traffic.
Cisco has been doing its VNI forecast for five years now, but this is the first time the company has explicitly broken out Wi-Fi traffic. The numbers couldn’t be more timely, as network operators have increasingly looked to offload mobile traffic onto Wi-Fi networks to deal with issues of network congestion.
The iPad (s AAPL) and its newer Android (s GOOG) competitors have introduced a new class of mobile devices that make cellular connectivity optional. Studies have shown that iPad users mostly access the device within reach of their home’s Wi-Fi hotspot, and a recent poll by GigaOM’s Mobilize showed that three out of four consumers prefer a WiFi-only tablet.
Here are some other key findings of the report:

  • Global IP traffic will reach 966 Exabytes per year in 2015, up from 242 Exabytes in 2010.
  • The biggest driver for the global traffic growth will be video, which will account for 62 percent of consumer Internet traffic in 2015 (up from 40 percent in 2010).
  • P2P growth will slow, and P2P traffic will only account for 16 percent of global consumer Internet traffic in 2015 (down from 40 percent in 2010).
  • The Asia-Pacific region will become the biggest source of IP traffic, consuming 24.1 Exabytes per month in 2015, compared to 22.3 Exabytes per month for North America. In 2010, North America was ahead with 7 Exabytes, with the Asia-Pacific region seeing 5.4 Exabytes per month.
  • Worldwide, the average Internet household will consume 61.8 GB of bandwidth per month in 2015. Last year, it consumed merely 17.1 GB per month. A growing chunk of this bandwidth will be caused by passive networking, e.g. a PC downloading a software update in the background.