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Internet traffic to triple by 2020, says Cisco

The latest edition of Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicts a near tripling of internet traffic during the coming years as more than a billion people come online

More than a billion new internet users and 10 billion new devices and connections will see the amount of IP traffic flowing over the internet in the next few years almost treble, according to the latest edition of Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI).

The new VNI report predicts that by the end of the decade, there would be 3.4 devices and connections for every human on the planet, up from 2.2 per capita in 2015, through a combination of more access to personal devices and the deployment of machine-to-machine (M2M) or internet of things (IoT) devices.

Advances in the IoT, coupled with ongoing growth in video services and content, will drive compound annual growth of 22% in IP traffic, said Cisco.

By 2020, IoT connections will have grown from 4.9 billion connected devices last year to 12.2 billion, and will represent 46% of all connected devices, with health the fastest growing segment, forecast to rise from 144 million devices to 729 million at the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, video will account for 79% of global internet traffic over the same timescale, up from 63% last year, with three trillion internet video minutes served every month by 2020, or five million years' worth of video every month. High definition and ultra-high definition will make up 82% of video traffic, up from 53% in 2015.

“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 at 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.”

UK no straggler in traffic but lags on broadband

Cisco’s researchers picked out a number of trends influencing internet traffic in the UK, which were broadly similar to the global picture.

IP traffic in the UK is also expected to treble between 2015 and 2020, with the equivalent in gigabytes of every movie ever made crossing the UK’s IP network every 46 minutes. Internet traffic grew by 29% in 2015 alone, the equivalent of 29 times the total volume of IP traffic in 2005.

The total number of networked devices in the UK will also double by 2020, from 368 million in 2015 to 660 million by 2020, with IoT devices accounting for 53% of the total at the end of the decade.

The average British internet user will burn through 93.9GB of traffic per month in 2020, up from 40GB per month in 2015.

However, Cisco predicted that UK broadband adoption would ultimately fail to match up to government ambitions. Cisco's research suggested that only 84% of broadband connections would be faster than 10Mbps by 2020, despite government targets for superfast broadband – defined as 24Mbps and above –  being available to 95% of premises by 2017, and substantially below currently claimed availability levels.

DDoS threats rising

Along with the growth in traffic volume, and growing dependence on mobile and fixed broadband networks, Cisco said greater account will need to be taken of internet security over the next four years.

For the first time since it inaugurated the VNI, Cisco has attempted to quantify the current and future threats to the worldwide network from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, with the help of security supplier Arbor Networks.

DDoS attacks, which can cripple businesses and governments by flooding servers and other connected devices with traffic, are one of the main risks facing the internet today. Cisco and Arbor’s analysis suggested that at present, DDoS attacks can represent up to 10% of a country’s total internet traffic while in progress.

The total volume of attacks is expected to increase from 6.6 milllion to 17 million over the next four years, highlighting the need for more comprehensive security measures to be taken.

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