Video -- already the biggest component of Internet traffic -- will account for more than 50% by the end of next year and reach 62% by the end of 2015, according to Cisco's latest Visual Networking Index Forecast.
By 2015, there will be nearly 3 billion Internet users, more than 40% of the world's projected population and there will be more than 15 billion network-connected devices by then, according to Cisco's Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast for 2010-2015.
Over that time period, the total amount of global Internet traffic will quadruple, reaching 966 Exabytes (966 billion GB) per year by 2015, Cisco projects. Meanwhile, the average fixed broadband speed also is expected to increase fourfold, from 7 Megabits per second in 2010 to 28 Mbps in 2015.
The projected increase of Internet traffic between 2014 and 2015 alone is 200 Exabytes, which is more than the total amount of IP traffic generated globally in 2010, according to the Cisco VNI Forecast.
"The network is going to be taking on a dramatically increasing load," said Doug Webster, senior director of worldwide Cisco service provider marketing. "However, the network also has to be intelligent enough to know what application or service it's part of. Video is significantly harder to deliver."
The Cisco VNI Forecast is based on analyst projections, in-house estimates and forecasts, and direct data collection from more than two dozen service providers around the world, as well as 500,000 individuals running speed-test apps.
As for whether the dramatic surge in usage could disable the Internet at some point, Webster said, "A lot of people are concerned about that. The service providers are incented to stay ahead of this demand, and we're seeing a very heavy investment in their business to keep up with this demand."
According to Cisco, the four factors driving global IP traffic growth are: more devices; more Internet users; faster broadband speeds; and more video consumption.
Internet video to TVs tripled in 2010 and will increase 17-fold by 2015. Internet video to the TV will be more than 16% of consumer Internet video traffic in 2015, up from 7% in 2010, according to the VNI Forecast.
Peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic, while it continues to grow, is dropping as a percentage of total usage. By 2015, global peer-to-peer traffic will account for 16% of global consumer Internet traffic, down from 40% percent in 2010.
Wider adoption of bandwidth caps -- limits on the amount of data users may consume in a given period -- could affect demand over the next several years, Webster acknowledged. However, caps today generally affect less than 2% of all broadband users, and "what we're seeing is [that] the growth among everyone else is more than making up for it," he said.
Other highlights from the Cisco study:
* By 2015, every second 1 million minutes of video -- the equivalent of 674 days -- will traverse global Internet protocol networks. Cisco forecasts that all forms of video (TV, video on demand, Internet, and peer-to-peer) will be approximately 90% of global consumer traffic by then.
* PCs will generate 87% of consumer Internet traffic by 2015, down from 97% in 2010, because of growing use of devices like tablets, smartphones and Internet-connected TVs.
* By 2015, the Asia-Pacific region will generate the most IP traffic (24.1 Exabytes per month), surpassing North America (22.3 Exabytes per month) for the No. 1 spot.
* Mobile Internet data traffic will increase 26-fold from 2010 to 2015, to 6.3 Exabytes per month (or 75 Exabytes annually).