Cisco is out today with its annual Visual Networking Index (VNI), providing insight into traffic and data demands expected over the period from 2015-2020.
Among the top line forecasts in the report is that by 2020, there will be 4.1 billion Internet users, up from three billion in 2015. In terms of IP traffic, Cisco is now forecasting a 22 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2015-2020. In terms of raw data, Cisco's forecast calls for 2.3 Zettabytes of IP traffic to traverse the Internet in 2020, up from 879 exabytes in 2015.
The new forecast is roughly in line with with the trajectory for data consumption that Cisco predicted in its 2015 VNI report. That doesn't mean that Cisco's reports are always right, however. In fact, year after year, there are often incremental updates as real numbers emerge.
Back in 2011, the Cisco VNI forecasted that global IP traffic would reach 966 Exabytes in 2015. Five years later, that number has been revised to 879 exabytes.
A key metric tracked by Cisco and that is also helping to drive IP data growth is machine to machine (M2M) connections. By 2020, Cisco forecasts that 12.2 billion M2M connections will be in place, representing 46 percent of all connected devices.
Another key shift that Cisco has observed is the move away from PC usage to other devices, including smart phones and TVs. 71 percent of total IP traffic in 2020 is expected to come from non-PC devices, up from 47 percent in 2015.
Also of note as more devices come online is the increased usage of IPv6 over the next five years, though even by 2020, IPv6 will not represent the majority of all IP traffic. In 2015, Cisco reports that 23.3 percent of all Internet traffic was carried over IPv6. That number is set to growth at a CAGR of 74 percent over the next few years, hitting 48.2 percent of 2020 IP traffic.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.