Video Fuels Bandwidth Binge


The surfers are hungry — and they’re
going to get hungrier.

Online video consumption will more than quadruple
from 2011 to 2016, as billions of users worldwide — with
more devices on faster connections — are set to drive overall
network traffic usage to unprecedented peaks, according
to Cisco Systems’ annual network forecast.

By 2016, the amount of annual global Internet-protocol
traffic will be 1.3 Zettabytes (equivalent to 1.3 trillion
Gigabytes), according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index
(VNI) Forecast for 2011-2016. By comparison, the total
amount of IP traffic estimated from 1984 at the dawn
of the Internet through the end of 2012 was 1.2 Zettabytes.

And network operators will have to figure out how to
continue catering to Internet users’ insatiable appetite for
more bandwidth. “Even we have to take a step back and be
astonished at the volume of traffic,” Cisco VNI senior analyst
Arielle Sumits said.

By 2016, Cisco expects there to be 3.4 billion Internet
users — about 45% of the world’s projected population,
according to United Nations estimates. The average fixed
broadband speed is expected to increase nearly fourfold,
from 9 Megabits per second in 2011 to 34 Mbps in 2016.

Video is the biggest chunk out of the overall rapidly expanding

By 2016, 1.2 million video minutes — the equivalent of
833 days, or more than two years — are expected to travel
the Internet every second, according to Cisco’s forecast.
Monthly Internet video usage is projected to increase from
10.4 Petabytes (10.4 million Gigabytes) to 44.3 Petabytes
by 2016.

Connected TVs are expected to account for more than
6% of global consumer Internet traffic by 2016 (up from 4%
in 2011), and 18% of Internet video traffic (up from 7% in
2011). That shows that Internet-enabled TVs are becoming
a viable option for many consumers, Sumits said.

“Generally, we’re not seeing the traffic becoming more
symmetric,” she said. “HD video downloads are keeping
it pretty asymmetric toward the downstream.”

Meanwhile, file sharing will continue to swell in raw
numbers. By 2016, global peer-to-peer traffic is projected
to account for 54% of global consumer Internet file-sharing
traffic, down from 77% in 2011. In terms of volume, however,
the amount of peer-to-peer traffic is expected to increase
from a rate of 4.6 Exabytes per month in 2011 to 10
Exabytes per month by 2016.

Operators’ implementation of data-usage caps and
consumption-based pricing will start to flatten out the
rate of IP traffic growth — but only slightly, Sumits predicted.

On the fixed-broadband side, “we are expecting a continued
tapering of the overall
traffic growth,” she said, thanks
partly to bandwidth caps and
partly to the overall large volume
of data. Previously, the Cisco
VNI forecast a compound annual
growth rate of 32% for 2010-15; it
is forecasting 29% CAGR for 2011-

Usage caps “should have an
impact on the amount of traffic
consumed by the top 1% of customers,”
Sumits said, noting that
the top percentile of fixed-line
consumers consistently generates
more than 20% of total IP

Comcast, for example, last
month said it will eliminate its
250-Gigabyte usage cap to test
a new usage-based pricing system
for broadband users who
use more than 300 GB of data per

Other findings from Cisco’s latest
VNI forecast:

Wi-Fi connections will represent
more than half of the
world’s Internet traffic by 2016;

Nearly 18.9 billion network
devices will be attached to IP networks
by 2016 — almost 2.5 connections
for each person on earth
— compared with 10.3 billion in 2011;

IPv6-capable devices will number 8 billion (for both
fixed and mobile devices) by 2016, up from 1 billion in

Mobile Internet data traffic is forecast to increase 18
times from 2011 to 2016, to 10.8 Exabytes per month (130
Exabytes annually); and

Business Internet users are projected to grow from 1.6
billion in 2011 to 2.3 billion by 2016.
Cisco’s VNI, established in 2007, is based on a combination
of analyst projections, in-house estimates and
forecasts, and direct data collection. The report aggregates
data from multiple researchers, including SNL
Kagan, Ovum, IDC, Frost & Sullivan, Gartner, ABI and