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Global mobile traffic to hit 31 exabytes a month by 2020

The boom in global mobile data traffic shows absolutely no signs of slowing, according to Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index report

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Mobile networking

By the end of the decade, global mobile data traffic will have reached 30.6 exabytes  – approximately 30 quintillion bytes or 30 billion gigabytes – per month, up from 3.7 exabytes in 2015, according to Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) mobile report.

The fastest adoption rates will be in developing markets, with Africa and the Middle East expected to see a 15-fold surge in traffic, compared with 9% in Asia-Pacific and 8% in Central and Eastern Europe, with Western Europe and North America up 6%.

By the end of the decade, claimed Cisco, there will be 5.5 billion mobile users worldwide – representing 70% of the entire human population – with smart devices and connections expected to represent 72% of total mobile devices and connections and accounting for virtually all mobile data traffic. Between them, they will have access to 11.6 billion mobile-ready devices and connections, including 8.5 billion personal devices.

Cisco said the number of mobile devices is increasing so rapidly that four years from now, more people would have access to one than to electricity, running water or a motor car.

For some time Cisco has been predicting that video will have the highest growth rate of any mobile application. It stood by this forecast in the latest edition of the VNI, saying that video would account for 75% of traffic by 2020. Seven trillion video clips and 81 trillion images – 28 per person per day for a year – will be shared.

As consumers and enterprises demand better video resolution, bandwidth and processing speed, 4G connectivity share is predicted to surpass 2G by 2018 and 3G by 2020, with 4G connections generating six times more traffic per month than non-4G connections. Average global mobile network speeds will grow by three times, up to 6.5Mbps.

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“With the ever-increasing billions of people and things that are being connected, mobility is the predominant medium that’s enabling today’s global digitisation transformation,” said Doug Webster, vice-president of service provider marketing at Cisco.

“Future mobile innovations in cellular, such as 5G, and Wi-Fi systems will be needed to further address new scale requirements, security concerns and user demands. Internet of things (IoT) advancements will continue to fuel tangible benefits for people, businesses and societies.”

The Cisco VNI report also delved into machine-to-machine – or IoT – connections and devices, which it predicted will make up 26.4% of connected devices by 2020, up from 7.7% in 2015, generating 6.7% of total mobile traffic. It forecast that there will be around 600 million wearables in use at that time.

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Numbers like this make me think of the Technological Singularity. Not the one involving Skynet, the one proposed by John von Neumann where the acceleration of technological change and the way in which it affects our lives will lead to a type of singularity after which things as we know them could not continue.
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