Skip to main content

The Internet is going to reach a zettabyte, nearly a trillion gigabytes, of data this year

global internet usage one zettabyte computer server room information cloud web net
Image used with permission by copyright holder
If you thought the 2GB monthly data cap on your phone was low, well, you’re right. And, in comparison to the world’s overall Internet traffic figures, it appears to be even more microscopic as we’re slated to approach the one zettabyte mark later this year.

This news comes from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, a survey predicting Internet traffic trends all the way up to 2019. The survey says that Internet traffic is going to extend past a zettabyte of data usage this year, but even more surprisingly, it’s going to double in the next three years.

To put into perspective just how massive our bandwidth consumption has been recently, a simple unit conversion calculator reveals that a zettabyte equates to 909,494,701.773 terabytes. Yes, we’re expected to reach almost a trillion gigabytes this year, and likely exceed it, largely due to the advent and rampant adoption of smartphones.

By the year 2020, Cisco claims that 5.5 billion people, roughly 70 percent of the global population, will be lugging mobile devices around in their pockets. With that in mind, devices like phones, tablets, smartwatches, and the like will be responsible for an eight-fold increase over the next three to four years. Most shocking, however, is Cisco’s assertion that by 2020, more people will have cell phones than will have basic utilities, including running water, electrical service, or a car.

On a less surprising note, the Internet is experiencing the most rapid expansion in Africa and the Middle East, with a 44-percent compound annual growth rate. Central and Eastern Europe are advancing at a 330-percent annual rate. Likewise, countries located in the Asia Pacific region, like China, are anticipated to account for the most traffic worldwide at 54 exabytes per month, though they’re only experiencing a 21-percent growth rate each year.

North American countries, and primarily the United States, are generating about 50 exabytes of data consumption every month, with an annual growth of 20 percent, making us the second-largest data devourer around.

Editors' Recommendations

Gabe Carey
Former Digital Trends Contributor
A freelancer for Digital Trends, Gabe Carey has been covering the intersection of video games and technology since he was 16…
How to minimize your data usage at home
Netgear Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi System

It’s common to use Wi-Fi at home instead of cellular data plans (and modern devices are good at automatically switching back and forth). However, many homes still use internet plans that have data caps: Reach that cap, and you could be paying high surcharges for continuing to use the internet that month. Since many people are working from home in 2021, reaching those data caps may be a whole lot easier than it once was.

Paying for a higher internet service tier will raise your monthly bills, but there is another solution: Smart data management in your home to help keep data usage down! Here are the best techniques we recommend implementing.

Read more
T-Mobile reveals it ended 2020 with data a breach
The T-Mobile logo on a smartphone.

T-Mobile’s new year is not off to the greatest of starts after the carrier revealed details of a security breach affecting some of its customers.

A message on T-Mobile’s website says that a recently identified security incident may have allowed hackers to steal customer data such as phone numbers, number of lines subscribed to on an account, and call-related information collected as part of the normal operation of its wireless service.

Read more
The internet is changing human migration patterns

It’s not exactly breaking news to say that the internet has changed the world. But just how many ways it has subtly, or not so subtly, done so is a bit more surprising.

In a new study from Montreal’s McGill University, the U.K.’s University of Oxford, and Italy’s University of Calabria and Bocconi University, researchers lay out a new theory: That the internet has directly impacted global migration. The TL;DR version: That countries in which there is a higher proportion of internet users also have more people who are willing to emigrate.

Read more