Global Internet traffic is growing at a rapid rate that is expected to accelerate even more in the coming years. According to the latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecast from Cisco, global Internet traffic will hit 966 exabytes per year in 2015.
The growth in Internet traffic over the next four years will be greatest between 2014 and 2015 when Cisco forecasts growth of 200 exabytes, which is the total amount of IP data that was sent in all of 2010.
"We're on the verge of the zettabyte era," Doug Webster, director of strategic communications, worldwide service provider marketing at Cisco, told InternetNews.com. "That's equivalent to eight times the amount of all the traffic generated in 2008. It's the equivalent of 20 million DVDs going across the network every hour."
There are a number of drivers behind the explosive demand in IP traffic. Chief among them is the simple fact that there are expected to be more users and more devices on the network. Cisco is predicting that by 2015 there will be two devices connected to the network for every person on Earth, or approximately 15 billion devices in total.
"Users are also getting access to faster broadband speeds," Webster said. "We're expecting a four-fold increase in broadband speeds from 7 Mbps in 2010 to 28 Mbps by 2015."
In terms of traffic mix by device, there will be shift over the next several years. In 2015, Cisco is forecasting that PCs will generate 87 percent of Internet traffic down from 97 percent in 2010. Mobile devices including smartphones and tablets will pick up some of the slack.
Internet enabled TVs will also be responsible for traffic growth in 2015. Cisco forecasts that 18 percent of all Internet video traffic will consumed via TVs.
In past VNI studies, Cisco has pegged Peer-to-Peer (P2P) traffic as an IP glutton. That's set to chance over the next four years. P2P traffic is forecast to consume 16 percent of global Internet traffic in 2015, down from 40 percent in 2010.
By 2015, global Peer-to-Peer traffic will account for 16 percent of global consumer Internet traffic, down from 40 percent in 2010.
"The overall quantity of P2P is still increasing but because everything else is growing so much faster, the percentage of P2P traffic in the mix shows a decrease," Webster said.
Cisco has a vested interest in the continued demand for IP network traffic and it translated into continued demand for networking gear. In order to meet the demand of the network of 2015, service providers will need to invest in their networks.
"If there is no investment in the network, service providers will not able to sustain their levels of growth," Webster said. "Many providers might be running their network hot, but they're also realizing that they need excess capacity in their network to handle peaks in traffic."