First of all, think back five years. In 2009, President Obama had been in office for just six months. Michael Jackson, for at least the next two weeks or so, was still the King of Pop. Kim Kardashian hadn’t even met Kris Humphries yet.
In 2009, if I wrote “iPad,” you might have assumed I made a typo. Because the tablet didn’t exist until 2010. Last year alone, 195 million tablets, of all brands, were sold worldwide, by reliable estimate.
Stuff happens, and five years might as well be tomorrow. Cisco’s newly released Visual Networking Index Services Adoption Forecast, which reaches out five years to 2018, is chock full of startling and perhaps unsettling observations and predictions that stress this point.
It says, for example, that video is expected to grow to 84% of all the Internet traffic in this country, from 78% now.
By 2018, 4 billion people, or 52% of the world’s population, will have Internet access. By 2018, worldwide, people will have an average of 2.7 Internet-enabled devices. In the United States, each of us will have nearly 11.
And some trends we may have thought were big, are apparently even bigger than we think.
Cisco says that by 2018, 20% of all TVs in this country will be UltraHD models—and that those sets alone will use up 8% of the bandwidth traffic. They use more than nine times what a standard-definition set (2 mbps) does and more than twice an HD set (7.2 mbps).
Our use of the Internet is just going up, and the upcoming World Cup is a prime example. Cisco says the video streaming and IP broadcast of the World Cup, will generate 4.3 exabytes of IP traffic, which is three times the amount of the monthly IP traffic currently generated by Brazil. (One Exabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes, which is an expletive-lot. (Supposedly, one exabyte would hold all the words ever spoken.)
So that’s a problem, maybe.
Because the changes are massive. Cisco’s “newsroom” (okay, the PR department) notes:
Global Internet Protocol
(IP) traffic will increase nearly three-fold over the next five years, due to more Internet users and devices, faster broadband speeds and more video viewing. Global IP traffic for fixed and mobile
connections is expected to reach an annual run rate of 1.6 zettabytes* – more than 1.5 trillion gigabytes per year by 2018. The projected annual IP traffic for 2018 will be greater than all IP
traffic that has been generated globally from 1984 – 2013 (1.3 zettabytes).
For the first time, the majority of Internet traffic will come from devices other than personal computers by 2018; Wi-Fi traffic will exceed wired traffic. By 2018, there will be nearly as many machine-to-machine connections are there are people on earth. Those smart cars that are coming? They’ll have four Internet connections each.
In a video conference earlier today, Robert Pepper, Cisco's vice president of global technology policy, endorsed the general idea of Net neutrality, but he says managing the massive growth in all corners of the world is going to be “a bit of a challenge... It is going to be really interesting to see how that plays out.”
And that, perhaps, is why the FCC, cable operators and other Internet providers, content makers and the (thank goodness) loyal opposition to bigness are going to have to collide to decide how to deliver all this massiveness. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s two-tiered proposal (where the first tiered is not “slow” but perhaps “not as fast”) is a shaky proposition, but as it appears more and more “things” join the Internet, it’s apparent something or someone has to give.
In its video presentation today, Cisco pointed out that even traffic-wise, the peak usage time for the Internet will be more than three times higher by 2018; the fact is, there’s no non-peak time.
Jeff Campbell, Cisco’s vice president of government and community relations, told Reuters, "A world in which we want networks to treat all traffic the same will inhibit these connections. As the FCC looks at rewriting its Net neutrality rules, it is important that we allow for things like managed services and specialized services that can provide new applications for consumers.”
In the video presentation, Campbell used the example of an Internet-hooked heart monitor for an ailing patient, the kind of Internet extension that is now becoming relatively common. If it’s between somebody’s heart and the ability of thousands of viewers to watch “Orange Is The New Black” on Netflix without buffering, well, what’s it going to be?