A comprehensive Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecast released today predicts there will be 8 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices and nearly 2 billion machine-to-machine connections, including GPS systems, asset tracking systems, and medical record systems, in use around the world by 2016. That's just one of the big numbers Cisco throws around in its latest forecast.
Cisco also said worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold between now and 2016. In five years, mobile data traffic will reach a staggering 10.8 exabytes per month and 130 exabytes annually.
"The expected sharp increase in mobile traffic is due, in part, to a projected surge in the number of mobile Internet - connected devices, which will exceed the number of people on earth (2016 world population estimate of 7.3 billion; source: United Nations)," Cisco said. "During 2011−2016 Cisco anticipates that global mobile data traffic will outgrow global fixed data traffic by three times."
To put things into perspective, Cisco says 130 exabytes is equivalent to 33 billion DVDs, 4.3 quadrillion MP3 files, or 813 quadrillion SMS text messages. For reference, an exabyte is equal to 1 quintillion bytes.
Should Cisco's forecasts ultimately come true, it will mean wireless carriers will have to figure out how to handle all that traffic. Increased data throttling is one solution, but it probably won't solve the problem entirely, especially as content demands grow and more users become part of the so-called "Gigabyte Club."
"By 2016, 60 percent of mobile users -- 3 billion people worldwide -- will belong to the 'Gigabyte Club,' each generating more than one gigabyte of mobile data traffic per month," said Suraj Shetty, vice president of product and solutions marketing for Cisco. "By contrast, in 2011, only one-half percent of mobile users qualified."