Report: Web traffic to quadruple by 2016

report web traffic to quadruple by 2016 internetIf you thought Internet traffic was big now, just wait four years. According to estimates released by Cisco, the traffic in 2016 alone will be higher than the combined Internet traffic between 1984 and 2012. If you’re wondering what’s going to cause such an explosion of online explosion, you might want to look at your smartphone…

According to Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index report, Internet traffic will increase to four times its current size by 2016, hitting an impressive 1.3 zettabytes of data for the year – a figure that only gets more impressive when you learn that a zettabyte is a sextillion bytes, or a trillion gigabytes (which is to say, there’s a lot of zeroes involved in that number). In fact, Cisco’s report estimates, the jump in traffic between 2015 and 2016 alone will amount to somewhere in the region of 330 exabytes, which is just under the 2011 total online traffic (369 exabytes).

Cisco suggests five possible causes for this dramatic increase: Increases in not only the number of WiFi spots available to users, allowing them to stay online longer and more frequently than they do currently, but also broadband speeds, allowing users to use more Internet more quickly are mentioned. Also expected to rise is the number of Internet users in general – By 2016, 3.4 billion people are expected to be online, roughly 45 percent of the world’s population at that point – and the ways in which they’ll be able to get online: “By 2016, the forecast projects there will be nearly 18.9 billion network connections―almost 2.5 connections for each person on earth,” the report says, compared with 10.3 billion in 2011 (Smartphones and tablets are expected to see the biggest bump, apparently). The final reason suggested should appeal to the Netflix users amongst us: We’ll all be watching more video online. “By 2016,” Cisco estimates,  “1.2 million video minutes – the equivalent of 833 days (or over two years) – would travel the Internet every second.”

Occasionally, you read things that make your head spin. That would be one of them.

Interestingly enough, Bloomberg’s Jordan Robinson points out that the growth of the Internet is actually slowing, despite what the report seems to suggest at first sight. The phenomenon was actually first noticed by Nikos Theodosopoulos, an analyst with USB Securities, who suggested that the slowdown comes from a change in the way users will access the Internet in future, scaling back mobile access as unlimited data plans are withdrawn by carriers. “While the forecast continues to show solid IP traffic growth, the forecast growth rate continues to decelerate, which we believe supports our view that the service provider router growth rate will remain sub-10% in the future,” Theodosopoulos wrote to investors. So perhaps we’re not entirely facing Infogeddon just yet. Maybe by 2020…