The Zettabyte Era Is Getting Closer

Like driving a race car, the web is fast and fun. Indeed, its increasing speed and the ability to use it as a source of entertainment are among the main reasons Cisco (s csco) is forecasting a fourfold increase in web traffic by 2014, to 63.9 exabytes per month — or more than three-quarters of a Zettabyte each year — according to the annual Visual Networking Index from the equipment company, which makes big bucks selling service providers gear to manage and route gargantuan amounts of traffic.

At that point, 91 percent of the traffic will be video, a culprit that was fingered for huge increases in bandwidth consumption in previous years’ VNI surveys. In the meantime, 2010 is forecast to be the first year that all other video traffic surpasses peer-to-peer video as the largest source of web traffic. Surprisingly, while 3-D video is being foisted on consumers as “the next big thing” only 4 percent of web traffic in 2014 is expected to be 3-D video-related. That’s a lot of “Avatar” showings, but it’s still small compared to the overall video and entertainment options available online.

What’s also noteworthy is that 87 percent of the traffic is forecast to be consumer-oriented as compared to 79 percent in 2009. That’s because as computers become prevalent and connectivity fades into the background in the way electricity has, people use them for everything from watching TV to calling Grandma via Skype without ever focusing on the broadband.

Another factor driving usage is how much faster today’s connections are than ever before. Cisco compared today’s average download speeds of 4.4 Mbps to those of 10 years ago (measured at 127 kbps) and found that today’s connections are 35 time faster than those offered at the turn of the century. And speed matters, because it turns an unbearable experience like a Skype call that stutters and hangs up into one that’s so easy and functional you never want to use plain old telephone lines again.

Here are more of Cisco’s findings:

  • Global Internet video traffic will surpass global peer-to-peer traffic by the end of 2010, meaning that, for the first time in 10 years, peer-to-peer traffic will not be the largest type of Internet traffic.
  • The global online video community will include more than 1 billion users by the end of 2010.
  • By 2014, it would take more than two years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks every second; to watch all the video crossing the network that year would take 72 million years.
  • Globally, advanced video traffic, including three-dimensional (3-D) and high-definition TV (HDTV), is projected to increase 13 times between 2009 and 2014.
  • By 2014, 3-D is expected to account for 4 percent of total Internet video traffic.
  • By 2014, 3-D and HD video is forecast to comprise 42 percent of total consumer Internet video traffic.
  • Global file-sharing traffic is projected to reach 11 exabytes per month in 2014, 22 percent CAGR from 2009-2014.
  • P2P will grow at a CAGR of 16 percent, while web-based and other file sharing will grow at CAGR of 47 percent from 2009-2014.
  • By 2014, global P2P traffic will be 17 percent of global consumer Internet traffic, down from 36 percent in 2009.
  • Global business IP traffic is forecast to reach 7.7 exabytes per month in 2014, more than tripling from 2009-2014.
  • Web-based video conferencing is the fastest growing sub-category, growing 180-fold from 2009-2014 (183 percent CAGR from 2009-2014).
  • Global mobile data traffic will increase 39 times from 2009 to 2014.
  • By 2014, annual global mobile data traffic will reach 3.5 exabytes per month (or a run rate of more than 42 exabytes annually).