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Cisco: Mobile Web traffic growing at a staggering rate

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The amount of data passed over the mobile Internet will increase 26-fold between 2010 and 2015, according to a study released today by Cisco Systems Inc.

The dramatic increase, reports Cisco in its Visual Networking Index, will be due to a “projected surge” in the number of mobile Internet-enable devices, like tablets and smartphones, and a massive jump in mobile video consumption. These factors will bring the amount of data passed over the airwaves to an unfathomable 6.3 exabytes-per-month — “the equivalent of 19 billion DVDs or 536 quadrillion SMS text messages or 75 times the amount of global Internet Protocol traffic (fixed and mobile) generated in the year 2000,” says Cisco in a press release about the study.

Between 2009 and 2010, mobile data traffic has increased 159 percent, and grew 4.2 times faster than standard broadband traffic in 2010.

“The fact that global mobile data traffic increased 2.6-fold from 2009 to 2010,” said Cisco vice president Suraj Shetty in a statement, “nearly tripling for the third year in a row, confirms the strength of the mobile Internet. The seemingly endless bevy of new mobile devices, combined with greater mobile broadband access, more content, and applications of all types — especially video — are the key catalysts driving this remarkable growth.”

Cisco estimates that the India will have the highest growth in mobile data traffic at 158 percent, followed by South Africa (144 percent) and Mexico (131 percent). The United Kingdom and the United States, however, will see a relatively slow growth-rate, at 83 to 84 percent. Cisco also predicts that, by 2015, there will be a cell phone connection for nearly every single one of Earth’s estimated 7.2 billion people.

But don’t worry — this monumental increase in mobile Web traffic doesn’t mean a slower connection (at least not what we think of as “slow” nowadays). In fact, if Cisco’s forecast is correct, mobile connection speeds will increase 10-fold  from 2010 numbers by 2015 to more than 4,400 Kb/s. What could be of concern, however, is how much providers will charge for access, now and in the long-term.

“Consumers are expecting more bandwidth because new applications are coming that take up more bandwidth,” Shetty tells Bloomberg Businessweek. “The question comes down to ‘how much money will people pay for that increasing expectation?,’ which will drive the whole value chain itself.”

This new data highlights exactly why many believe the Federal Communications Commission’s new net neutrality rules, which do not prevent mobile Internet provider from blocking access to data-sucking services like Netflix and Skype, fall short.

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