A report from Cisco claims that worldwide mobile data traffic is set to increase a phenomenal 18-fold over the next five years, reaching as high as 10.8 exabytes per month by 2016.
In the catchily titled "Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2011 to 2016", Cisco outlines a world that is headed for a mobile boom the likes of which we haven't seen before - where connected devices will outnumber the amount of people on earth. In the run-up to 2016, Cisco believes that mobile data traffic will eclipse fixed data traffic by three times.
To put that data into perspective, 130 exabytes of mobile data traffic is equivalent to, says Cisco, 33 billion DVDs, 4.3 quadrillion MP3 files, or 813 quadrilion SMS text messages. An exabyte is 1 quintillion bytes. Quintillions have an awful lot of 0s.
The compound annual growth rate over the next five years is an enormous 78 percent. Traffic sent between 2015 and 2016 is expected to account for three times the size of all of the mobile internet in 2012.
Cisco says there are five main factors which will contribute to the mobile data boom. Consumers are demanding more streamed content and all of the software bigwigs are introducing cloud services. As on-demand becomes the standard, cloud traffic will increase 28-fold up to 2016, or a compound annual growth rate of 95 percent.
There will simply be more mobile connections, too, says Cisco. In 2016, the company expects over 10 billion mobile internet connected devices, including machine to machine devices. That trounces the projected human population of the time at 7.3 billion.
Mobile devices, too, will become more powerful, so they will be able to generate more traffic - 62-fold from 2011 to 2016, says Cisco. A shift to 4G and faster networks will let us download more, and mobile video will become a growing trend, accounting for roughly 71 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2016.
The regions with the highest growth up until 2016 are, in order, the Middle East and Africa with a CAGR of 104 percent, Asia-Pacific with 84 percent CAGR, Central and Eastern Europe with an 83 percent CAGR, Latin America with a 79 percent CAGR, North America with a 75 percent CAGR, and predictably last will be Western Europe with a 68 percent CAGR.
Cisco's report is available here.