Year after year, global internet traffic has gone up, with no apparent end in sight.
The staggering amount of volume growth in the internet is summarized by Cisco in its recent Visual Networking Index (VNI). According to the VNI, from 1984 until 2018, 4.7 zettabytes of IP traffic traversed the internet. By 2022, five years from now, Cisco is forecasting that total internet traffic will reach 4.8 zettabytes per year, meaning that more traffic will be created each year than in the 32 years since the internet started.
That works out to 396 exabytes per month by 2022, up from 122 exabytes per month in 2017.
The busiest hour of internet traffic -- the period of time for peak traffic -- is currently forecast to grow at a 37 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over the 2017 to 2022 time period, hitting a peak of 7.2 petabytes per second in 2022.
There are a number of factors driving the continued growth of internet traffic over the next five years. One is the growth in the total number of users. In 2017, Cisco reported that there are 3.4 billion internet users, which wil grow to 4.8 billion by 2022.
Another key driver for the increasing volume of internet traffic is increasing internet bandwidth. Fixed global fixed broadband speeds are forecast to grow from 39.0 Mbps on average in 2017 to 75.4 Mbps by 2022. Wi-Fi speeds are also expected to double from an average of 24.4 Mbps in 2017 to 54.0 Mbps by 2022.
Entertainment-related activities, including video, gaming and multimedia, are forecast to represent 85 percent of all traffic by 2022. A core element of growth in the Cisco forecast is virtual and augmented reality traffic, which is forecast to reach 4.02 exabytes per month in 2022, up from 0.33 exabytes per month in 2017.
"The size and complexity of the internet continues to grow in ways that many could not have imagined," said Jonathan Davidson, senior vice president and general manager, Service Provider Business at Cisco. "Since we first started the VNI Forecast in 2005, traffic has increased 56-fold, amassing a 36 percent CAGR with more people, devices and applications accessing IP networks."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.