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December 20, 2013

The Internet’s future: video and mobile traffic by the zettabyte


The Internet has certainly grown over the last 20 years. Whether it’s used to casually tweet friends while watching a favorite TV show, or to deliver breaking news to people across the globe, the Internet has become a vital part of our lives. So much so, in fact, that connectivity is no longer considered an amenity, but an expected requirement instead. Today, Internet traffic is at the highest it’s ever been — no surprise there — and there’s no sign of a plateau any time even in the remotely near future. As more and more types of devices become internet enabled, and more people around the world gain access, it will continue to grow and evolve at high speed.

What the data shows

One of the go-to sources for IP network traffic information is Cisco’s Virtual Networking Index (VNI). A lot of information can be derived from its forecast model, including global IP traffic forecasts, mobile usage and media trends. Assuming the current growth rate holds, the amount of global IP traffic will surpass the zettabyte threshold by 2017. It’s expected to reach a whopping 1.4 zettabytes of data per year (that’s 1,400,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes, by the way), which is an almost three-fold increase in Internet traffic over the next five years.

Here are a few tidbits that stand out in the current index:

  • Content Delivery Networks (CDN), such as Amazon S3 and Cloudfront, are expected to forward over half of the Internet’s traffic in 2017
  • Almost half of all traffic in 2017 will originate from non-PC devices
  • The number of connected devices in 2017 will be three times the expected population
  • Almost 70 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2017 will be from video

Remember, these are just some highlights. If you’re someone who is in charge of managing future network expenditures and deployments, you might want to check out the full report for additional insights that could be important to your business or job role.

What it means for business

Not that it’s overly surprising to anyone in the IT field, but the Internet and its traffic is going to continue to grow regardless of the current global economic climate. Companies that can use this type of data to their advantage and adjust their operations accordingly will be the ones most likely to hold a competitive advantage in the future. An increase in traffic means a new audience, and a new lot of potential customers. As higher percentages of the global population join the connected masses, companies who fail to plan and keep up with the expanding market could leave themselves vulnerable to a crushing blow from new competition.

For IT professionals, the growth will continue to fuel the demand for engineers who have the skills to manage the networks that process this traffic from source to destination. There are a number of different business types that are affected (both directly and indirectly) by this growth, and all of them need these skills. However, a growing market means growing interest from those entering and exiting the education system. In other words, expect there to be more engineers to compete for these positions. Because of this, it’s important for current engineers to maintain and diversify their skills and keep pace with existing and future technologies.

As for the IT industry in general, the forecast is promising: more jobs, more customers and more markets to do business in. Even with the economic climate as it is today, the Internet has shown us that its progress cannot be slowed, and that means we have an exciting future to look forward to.

About the Author

is an accomplished networking consultant for SR-W Consulting ( and writer/editor for infoDispersion ( Sean has been in the IT field for over 15 years, working with companies like Cisco, Lucent, Verizon and AT&T as well as several other private companies. Sean holds certifications with Cisco (CCNP/CCDP), Microsoft (MCSE) and CompTIA (A+ and Network+). His educational accomplishments include: a Master’s of Science in Information Technology with a focus in Network Architecture and Design, a Master’s of Science in Organizational Management, a Master’s Certificate in Network Security, a Bachelors of Science in Computer Networking, and an Associates of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems.

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