The wireless IP explosion

Global IP traffic is expected to hit the zettabyte range by 2015 with wireless systems handling the majority of the load

The wired world has steadily been becoming unwired, and in a few years the amount of Internet traffic from wireless devices will surpass those of their wired counterparts, a new report from Cisco predicts. And the traffic on wired networks will be nothing to sneeze at, either.

Overall, total global IP traffic by 2015 will reach the zettabyte threshold, according to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index, released June 1. Officially, the report estimates that traffic will hit 966 exabytes, which is close enough to round up. (A zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes, or 1 billion terabytes; a terabyte is 1 trillion bytes, if that helps put it in perspective).

Wireless traffic has steadily been gaining on wired traffic, of course, mirroring the growth of smart phones, tablets, GPS devices, and wireless networks and hot spots. In 2010, wired traffic made up 63 percent of all data, to 37 percent for wireless. By 2015, the report projects, wireless will take up 54 percent of IP traffic, to 46 percent for wired.

Cisco describes the index as “an ongoing initiative to track and forecast the impact of visual networking applications,” and the report attempts to put the numbers into understandable — and at times amusing — contexts.

For example, the report states, by 2015, the digital-data equivalent of every movie ever made (7.3 Petabytes) will travel across global IP networks every five minutes. And it would take more than five years to watch the amount of video (1 million minutes) that will cross global IP networks every second. Internet video, the report states, will make up 62 percent of consumer traffic.

And people will have plenty of things on which to watch all that video. In 2015, there will be twice as many devices connected to IP networks as people on the planet, up from a one-to-one ratio in 2010, according to the report. (The number of networked devices will surpass the population later this year.)

Put another way, at some point this year, there will be one square foot of digital screens for each person on Earth, and it will only grow from there.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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