Cisco has released its annual Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast for the years 2011 through 2016, predicting IP traffic growth of four times in four years with network and device bandwidth growing alongside. For marketers, the challenge will be to fill that newfound capacity. The VNI Forecast analyzes Internet Protocol (IP) networking growth and trends worldwide, over both public and private networks. By 2016, annual global IP traffic is forecast to be 1.3 zettabytes (a zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes).
Publishers and marketers will be expected to take advantage of the capacity. As a practical test, try to use a 10-year-old laptop with a wireless connection to visit any modern and media-rich website, like Sports Illustrated‘s SI.com. As bandwidth increased, publishers and marketers have butted the ceiling of that capacity, meaning that rich media will become a norm in 2016 even in display advertising.
An increase in the number of devices will drive that traffic, including tablets, mobile phones and other smart devices. By 2016, the VNI forecast projects there will be nearly 18.9 billion network connections, about 2.5 connections for each person on earth, compared with 10.3 billion in 2011.
By 2016, there are expected to be 3.4 billion Internet users ― about 45% of the world’s projected population according to United Nations estimates.
They will be streaming video, ceaselessly. By 2016, 1.2 million video minutes―the equivalent of 833 days (or over two years) ―will travel the Internet every second, between advertising, entertainment and amateur video. Globally, there are expected to be 1.5 billion Internet video users by 2016, up from 792 million Internet video users in 2011.
The networks will be able to handle that volume, just fine. The average fixed broadband speed is expected to increase nearly fourfold, from 9 megabits per second (Mbps) in 2011 to 34 Mbps in 2016. In fact, the average global IP traffic in 2016 is expected to reach 150 petabytes per hour, the equivalent of 278 million people streaming an HD movie simultaneously.
Mobile devices will grow, but not take over. In 2011, PCs generated 94% of consumer Internet traffic. This contribution is expected to fall to 81% by 2016―demonstrating the impact that an increasing number and variety of devices like tablets, smartphones, etc. are having on how consumers and businesses access and use the Internet.
Still, those who stream video on a mobile device versus broadband will find the bandwidth and connections plentiful. By 2016, over half of the world’s Internet traffic is expected to come from high-volume Wi-Fi connections.
Computers and mobile devices will account for all of the traffic. By 2016, TVs are expected to account for over 6% of global consumer Internet traffic (up from 4% in 2011), and 18% of Internet video traffic (up from 7% in 2011) ―demonstrating the impact of Web-enabled TVs as a viable online option for many consumers.
A couple of caveats, as TechCrunch describes. Cisco is invested in data usage because it “sells a bunch of networking equipment. So it’s a good thing for Cisco if network operators see this report and decide they need to buy a bunch of new gear.” But, Cisco’s VNI forecasts have been historically “pretty conservative relative to the amount of traffic that eventually showed up.” Cisco in its first VNI forecast (2007) forecasted 28.4 exabytes of traffic per month in 2011, when the actual number was 30.7 exabytes per month—still colossal, and in the ballpark.