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Five Key Factors Drive the Internet Growth Trajectory

Cisco issued results of their annual Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast (2011-2016). It's the company's ongoing initiative to forecast and analyze Internet Protocol (IP) networking growth and trends worldwide. The VNI Forecast update projects the significant amount of IP traffic expected to travel public and private networks -- including Internet, managed IP, and mobile data traffic generated by all users.

This year, Cisco has also developed a new complementary study -- the Cisco VNI Service Adoption Forecast, which includes global and regional residential, consumer mobile, and business services growth rates.

By 2016, annual global IP traffic is forecast to be 1.3 zettabytes -- (a zettabyte is equal to a sextillion bytes, or a trillion gigabytes). The projected increase of global IP traffic between 2015 and 2016 alone is more than 330 exabytes, which is almost equal to the total amount of global IP traffic generated in 2011 (369 exabytes).

This significant level of traffic growth is driven by five key factors:
  1. An increasing number of devices: The proliferation of tablets, mobile phones, and other smart devices as well as machine-to-machine (M2M) connections are driving up the demand for connectivity. By 2016, the forecast projects there will be nearly 18.9 billion network connections -- almost 2.5 connections for each person on earth -- compared with 10.3 billion in 2011.
  2. More Internet users: By 2016, there are expected to be 3.4 billion Internet users -- about 45 percent of the world's projected population according to United Nations estimates.
  3. Faster broadband speeds: The average fixed broadband speed is expected to increase nearly fourfold, from 9 megabits per second (Mbps) in 2011 to 34 Mbps in 2016.
  4. More video: By 2016, 1.2 million video minutes -- the equivalent of 833 days (or over two years) -- would travel the Internet every second.
  5. Wi-Fi growth: By 2016, over half of the world's Internet traffic is expected to come from Wi-Fi connections.

The Cisco VNI Forecast Methodology

The annual Cisco VNI Forecast was developed to estimate global Internet Protocol traffic growth and trends. Widely used by service providers, regulators, and industry influencers alike, the Cisco VNI Forecast is based on in-depth analysis and modeling of traffic, usage and device data from independent analyst forecasts.

Cisco validates its forecast, inputs and methodology with actual traffic data provided voluntarily by global service providers and more than one million consumers worldwide. The following Cisco VNI Forecast resources and tools are available online:
  • The updated Cisco VNI Forecast Highlights Tool provides key forecast predictions in short sound bites that can be chosen on a global, regional or country level (these include device, traffic and network speed projections).
  • The Cisco VNI Forecast and Methodology, 2011 – 2016 White Paper provides the full detailed findings of the study.
  • The Cisco VNI Forecast widget provides customized views of the growth of various network traffic types around the globe (revised for this 2011 - 2016 forecast period).
  • The Cisco VNI Service Adoption Forecast White Paper provides a unique view into global and regional trends of next-generation residential, consumer mobile, and business end-user services and applications, underlying addressable markets and relevant devices and connections.
  • The Cisco VNI Service Adoption Forecast Highlights Tool provides primary global and regional takeaways on user and subscriber, device and connection, and service adoption penetration rates.
  • The New Cisco Data Meter application (beta version 1.0) for Android smartphones provides users with the following valuable network-related data: estimated and projected bandwidth consumption, individual app usage, Wi-Fi and cell connection speeds, and the location of nearby Wi-Fi networks.
Historically, Cisco VNI projections have generally been viewed as conservative; however, the forecast has proven to be quite accurate throughout its six-year history.
  • In the initial 2007 VNI Forecast, Cisco projected an overall IP traffic volume of 28.4 exabytes per month by 2011. The actual volume in 2011 was 30.7 exabytes per month. The actual volume was about 7 percent higher than what Cisco projected five years ago.
  • In the 2008 VNI Forecast, Cisco predicted that in 2010 Internet video would surpass P2P in traffic volume. In 2010, Internet video surpassed P2P in traffic volume -- confirming the Cisco VNI Forecast.