Cisco's latest Visual Networking Index
is chock full of interesting data nuggets on Internet and wireless growth, like the fact that global mobile data traffic grew 81% in 2013, reaching 1.5 exabytes per month at year's end. Cisco points out that last year's wireless data traffic alone was 18 times the size of the entire global Internet back in 2000. More specifically, one exabyte of traffic traveled the global Internet in 2000, while mobile networks in 2013 carried roughly 18 exabytes of traffic.
Cisco predicts that monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 15 exabytes by 2018, and the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world's population by 2014. Cisco also predicts that by 2018 there will be more traffic offloaded from cellular networks (on to Wi-Fi) than remain on cellular networks.
Several other data points of note from the study:
• Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012, comprising 53% of traffic by year's end.
• Average mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2013, up to 1,387 kilobits per second (Kbps), up from 526 Kbps in 2012.
• 4G connections generated 14.5 times more traffic on average than non 4G connections in 2013. 4G connections account for 2.9% of mobile connections, but 30% of mobile data traffic.
• The top 1 percent of mobile data subscribers generated 10 percent of mobile data traffic in 2013.
• Average smartphone usage grew 50 percent in 2013, from 353 MB per month in 2012 to 529 MB per month in 2013.
• North America led data consumption, with the average mobile subscriber consuming 1.38 GBs a month, up from 752 MBs.
Not highlighted by Cisco for obvious reasons is the fact that while all of this growth remains impressive, Cisco has again scaled back previous growth projections for wireless data growth. The company has faced repeated criticism for stoking fears of "spectrum crunch" to sell hardware, while rather quietly scaling data growth projections down (see this blog post by Tim Farrar
for more detail).