IP network bandwidth is set to explode over the next five years, according to Cisco's latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecast.
For 2018, Cisco is now forecasting that bandwidth consumption will reach 1.6 zettabytes. In its 2013 VNI forecast, Cisco had predicted that bandwidth consumption in 2017 would reach 1.4 zettabytes. A zettabyte is equal to 1000 exabytes, which is one sextillion bytes.
Even though the VNI forecast is a five-year projection for traffic, it isn't just a shot in the dark. Cisco has a sophisticated model for collecting data from multiple sources to obtain a high degree of forecast accuracy. Thomas Barnett, director of service provider marketing at Cisco, told Enterprise Networking Planet that, for example, Cisco had originally forecast traffic in 2013 to be 50 exabytes, while the actual number came in at 51 exabytes.
A number of key trends are driving the increased bandwidth number over the next five years. One of those trends is mobility and non-PC devices. By 2018, Cisco predicts that non-PC IP traffic will represent 57 percent of bandwidth, up from 33 percent in 2013.
But far and away the largest single source for bandwidth, both today and in 2018, is IP video. In 2013, IP video traffic represented 66 percent of bandwidth. The vendor now forecasts that it will grow to 79 percent by 2018.
One of the largest drivers for the increasing demand of IP video will be the growth of Ultra HD video (UHD). UHD, sometimes referred to by vendors as 4K video, only represented 0.1 percent of IP video traffic in 2013. By 2018, however, Cisco believes UHD IP video will account for 11 percent of IP video traffic.
All that bandwidth consumption will also be moving at a faster speed then ever before. According to Cisco, global broadband speeds averaged 16 Mbps in 2013 and will accelerate to 42 Mbps by 2018.
One key trend that is not expected to have a significant impact on bandwidth consumption is the Internet of Things.
Barnett said that with the Internet of Things, utilized bandwidth is not the big concern. Cisco forecasts that even by 2018, Internet of Things bandwidth consumption will be less then three percent of total global IP traffic. The Internet of Things is about connection volumes, which are expected to grow in the coming years. Cisco is forecasting 7.3 billion machine-to-machine connections in 2018.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.