Cisco is back with their latest Visual Networking Index mobile network traffic predictions
. Given the company wants to sell new gear, such predictions historically lean toward hyperbole (beware the Exaflood!). New predictions are made, last year's incorrect predictions are pulled from the Cisco website as network growth winds up being more manageable than predicted, and rinse wash and repeat. As I've noted more than a few times
, network growth and congestion is not only used to sell gear, but it's also used by carriers as a bogeyman to scare politicians into bad policy.
That said, there's some nifty nuggets in this year's study. Cisco's newest report is tamer than years past, but still insists that worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold over the next four years, reaching 11.2 exabytes per month (134 exabytes annually) by 2017.
Cisco's predictions are scaled back from last year, when they predicted an 18 times growth rate in wireless network data between 2011 and 2016, with users consuming 10.8 exabytes per month by 2016. Now Cisco thinks traffic will hit 7.4 exabytes per month in 2016.
Growth is actually slowing. Cisco's predictions have quietly been pulled back to be less alarming, something the company doesn't discuss much in the report. It's unlikely that Cisco wants to send the message that you should "buy less network gear because things are going to be fine." Some additional factoids from Cisco that may or may not actually be true:
• By 2017 there will be 5.2 billion mobile users, 10 billion mobile devices/connections, and 992 million 4G (mostly LTE) connections.
• By 2017 Cisco predicts Average global mobile network speeds will increase seven-fold from 2012 (0.5 Mbps) to 2017 (3.9 Mbps). Globally, the average mobile network downstream speed in 2012 was 526 kilobits per second (kbps), up from 248 kbps in 2011. The average mobile network connection speed for smartphones in 2012 was 2,064 kbps, up from 1,211 kbps in 2011.
• By 2017, mobile video will represent 66 percent of global mobile data traffic.
• In 2012, 33% of all mobile data traffic was offloaded via Wi-Fi to fixed line networks (428 petabytes/month), a number that will reach 46% and 9.6 exabytes per month by 2017.
• In 2012 Just 1% of global data connections were 4G, yet that 1% laid claim to 14% of all global mobile data traffic.
• 2012's mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000 (885 Petabytes versus 75 Petabytes).
• By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2017 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita.
• The average smartphone will generate 2.7 GB of traffic per month in 2017.
The study executive summary is here
and the full study can be downloaded here