Asia Will Become the New Center of the Internet

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Internet traffic will grow seven-fold between 2010 and 2015 to reach roughly 1.2 zettabytes globally, and by 2015, video will comprise half of the traffic on the web according to a new report from analyst firm Informa Telecoms & Media. This prediction expects more traffic in general and less video traffic than the other big forecast for web traffic offered by Cisco. Perhaps that’s because Informa isn’t trying to sell gear to service providers. But it may just be the first of several reductions for video traffic coming down the pike, as Cisco’s own data on this is expected out within a few weeks.

Cisco predicted last June that Internet traffic would grow by 4.3 times through 2014 to three-quarters of a zettabyte, but at that point in time, video would make up 91 percent of the traffic. This was a year ago, so it’s possible the upcoming data will match up, but the downgrade in expectations from video would be significant. So while waiting for the expectations for 2015 to come out from Cisco so we can see if the two sources match up, check out some of the other stats Informa predicts.

The firm expects Asia will soon become the dominant source of web traffic with a 42-percent share by 2015, surpassing North America. China is driving some of that growth, but won’t be the dominant contributor of traffic in the region by 2015. However, China is expected to have 670 million Internet uses by that time, according to the report. Total global traffic will reach 1.2 million petabytes — or roughly 1.2 zettabytes — and while video will be half of that traffic, other services such as cloud backup applications will also grow. This is good for services such as Dropbox and other consumer cloud storage providers.

The research makes some interesting distinctions between traffic growth and how people use the Internet that I’d love to explore in more depth, as it could help ISPs figure out how to best serve their customers and predict their bandwidth needs. For example, according to Informa:

Asia as a region has strong divisions between developing and developed markets, but even within these segments there are major differences. South Korea and Japan both enjoy the fastest broadband speeds in the world, but their Internet consumption is very different. South Korea is the country with the highest per-head usage rate in the world while Japan’s per-head usage is lower than Spain and Italy. There are several key reasons for this difference. The mobile Internet is far more developed in Japan than South Korea. Piracy in Japan is far lower than in South Korea, where acquiring content via online storage sites is a mainstream activity. And the high cost of backhaul in Japan means that online video services are typically of a relatively low quality compared with their Western peers, despite the fast connections that many users have.

I wonder if the world will devolve toward a universal Internet culture as faster speeds are deployed worldwide, or what social and cultural constraints might continue to emerge as we rely on the web for more and more of our storage, communications and even knowledge. Either way, we’re going to be sending a lot of data.

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