Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Sees IP Traffic Near-Tripling by 2020

By Peter Bernstein June 07, 2016

As resources that tend to become the gold standard as references for what lies ahead, there are few that can rival the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI).  Indeed, the publication of the VNI is one of the most anticipated ones of the year up and down ICT food chains and ecosystems. And, the good news is that those of us who write, think and plan about the relatively near-term future need wait no longer.  Cisco has released this year’s Cisco Visual Networking Index™ (VNI) Complete Forecast for 2015 to 2020. As the headline proclaims, the big news is that global IP traffic will nearly triple at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22 percent over the next five years.  

A few of the more top line forecasts are certainly food for thought. Cisco says that more than one billion new Internet users are expected to join the global Internet community, growing from three billion in 2015 to 4.1 billion by 2020. They note that the global digitization transformation, based on the adoption of personal devices and deployment of machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will have an even greater impact on traffic growth.

As usual this is a comprehensive look ahead.  Key findings and milestones from the VNI cited by Cisco include: 

1.) Stable growth in IP and Internet Traffic:  Global IP traffic is expected to reach 194.4 exabytes per month by 2020, up from 72.5 exabytes per month in 2015. The global annual run rate will reach 2.3 zettabytes by 2020—up from 870 exabytes in 2015.  They add as context that 2.3 zettabytes is equivalent to 12 hours of streaming music per day of the year per capita or 33 hours of Ultra HD video streaming for each person on earth.

In addition, particularly for those looking at network planning is that busy-hour Internet traffic is increasing faster than average Internet traffic. Busy-hour Internet traffic, that which generally occurs around the world between 9 p.m and midnight, will grow nearly 5-fold (4.7-fold) from 2015 to 2020, reaching 2.6 Pbps by 2020, compared with average Internet traffic that will grow three-fold over the same period reaching.  

For those interested there is even a breakout by region.

2.) IPv6 Adoption Supports Global Digitization: Globally, 48.2 percent of all fixed and mobile networked devices and connections will be IPv6-capable by 2020—up from 23.3 percent in 2015. Globally, 34 percent of total Internet traffic will be IPv6 driven by 2020. Globally, IPv6 traffic will grow 16-fold from 2015 to 2020, a CAGR of 74 percent.

3.) Fixed Broadband Speeds Nearly Double: Global broadband speeds will nearly double from 24.7 Mbps in 2015 to 47.7 Mbps by 2020.

4.) Smartphone Traffic Will Surpass PC Traffic: The way consumers and business users access IP networks and the Internet is shifting from PCs to mobile devices. By 2020, 71 percent of total IP traffic will originate with non-PC devices including tablets, smartphones, and televisions, compared to 47 percent in 2015. By 2020, smartphones will generate 30 percent of total IP traffic, while PC’s total IP traffic contribution will fall to 29 percent.

5.) Video Continues to Dominate Internet Traffic (with New Emerging Trends): Internet video will increase four-fold between 2015 and 2020. Consumer Internet video traffic will be 82 percent of consumer Internet traffic by 2020—up from 68 percent in 2015. Business Internet video traffic will be 66 percent of business Internet traffic by 2020—up from 44 percent in 2015. In addition, Video surveillance traffic nearly doubled in the past year and will grow 10-fold by 2020, and Virtual reality traffic quadrupled in the past year and will increase 61-fold by 2020.

6.) Service Adoption Trends: Residential, Consumer Mobile and Business: Online gaming will be the fastest growing residential Internet service, growing from 1.1 billion users in 2015 to 1.4 billion users by 2020. In other areas of interest, mobile location-based service (LBS) will be the fastest growing consumer mobile service, growing from 807 million users in 2015 to over 2.3 billion users by 2020. And, desktop /personal videoconferencing will be the fastest growing business Internet service, growing from 95 million users in 2015 to 248 million users by 2020.   

7.) Global Wi-Fi Expansion: Globally, total public Wi-Fi hotspots including home spots will grow 7X from 2015 (64 million) to 2020 (432 million). In fact, globally, home spots will grow from 57 million (2015) to 423 million by 2020. 

Cisco also notes that expanded Wi-Fi access will enable a variety of scaling and optimization opportunities for network operators (more mobile offload, ubiquitous VoWiFi, smart cities, connected transportation and related IoT strategies). This trend also enhances quad play capabilities and provides additional access for TV everywhere services.

8.) Consumer and Business Users Prefer Mobile Over Fixed Networks

In 2015, Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices generated 62 percent of Internet traffic (Wi-Fi: 55 percent; cellular: 7 percent; fixed: 38 percent). By 2020, Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 78 percent of Internet traffic (Wi-Fi: 59 percent; cellular: 19 percent; fixed: 22 percent).

A could of other factoid are of interest. Cisco is projected that over the next five years, global IP networks will support up to 10 billion new devices and connections, increasing from 16.3 billion in 2015 to 26.3 billion by 2020. They say this translates into 3.4 devices and connections per capita by 2020—up from 2.2 per capita in 2015.

A few other numbers to consider include:

  • Globally, M2M connections are calculated to grow nearly three-fold from 4.9 billion in 2015 to 12.2 billion by 2020, representing nearly half (46 percent) of total connected devices.
  • The connected health consumer segment will have the fastest growth (five-fold) of M2M connections from 2015 (144 million) to 2020 (729 million).
  • The connected home segment will have the largest volume of M2M connections over the forecast period with 2.4 billion in 2015, growing to 5.8 billion by 2020—nearly half of all M2M connections.
  • Video services and content continue to be the dominant leader compared with all other applications. Internet video will account for 79 percent of global Internet traffic by 2020—up from 63 percent in 2015.
  • The world will reach three trillion Internet video minutes per month by 2020, which is five million years of video per month, or about one million video minutes every second.
  • HD and Ultra HD Internet video will make up 82 percent of Internet video traffic by 2020—up from 53 percent in 2015.

There is also a cautionary note in this year’s VNI.  For the first time, Cisco collaborated with Arbor Networks have quantified the current and future threats of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks.  The DDoS analysis suggests these breaches can represent up to 10 percent of a country’s total Internet traffic while they are occurring. Over the next five years, DDoS attacks are projected to increase from 6.6 million to 17 million attacks.

 “The digital transformation is happening now for billions of consumers and businesses users across the globe,” said Doug Webster, vice president of service provider marketing, Cisco. “Innovation is imperative for Cisco and its service provider customers to deliver scalable, secure, high-quality services and experiences over all types of broadband network infrastructures.”

It has become almost cliché to say that an IP tsunami is heading our way. Cisco likes to quantify its speed and size, as a way for everyone to not be surprised.  The so-called trend toward a “mobility first” world where video traffic dominates bandwidth usage is not surprising.  It is something that has not been lost on communications service providers and is a leading driver of network virtualization efforts in the form of SDN and NFV and the advent of hyperscale data centers. 

That is the devil we all know and have known over several VNIs.  What is new, and should be a call to action is the projection about DDoS.  One would hope over the projection period that the good guys would have found preventive measures to bend that curve.  In fact, Cisco has one of the broadest cyber security portfolios in the industry, yet the projections that the bad guys will continue to stay steps ahead of defenders is certainly something to note and explore what can be done to make this projection wrong. 

Finally, there is a useful infographic available from Cisco for those who like their information in a more visual format.  This is after all a visual index. It is one whose related resources and commentary are more than worth the time reviewing.  As the context for the projections highlights, big waves are coming and it is best to ride them rather than be inundated. 




Edited by Maurice Nagle
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