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Global Internet Traffic Tops 29K PetaBytes a Month and Set for 83K by 2018

Tuesday, Jun 10th, 2014 (2:56 pm) - Score 1,673

Cisco has published its 2014 Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecast, which reveals that consumer Internet traffic has grown from 26,213 PetaBytes in 2012 to 29,071PB at the end of 2013 (excluding business traffic) and, fuelled by a +29% annual growth in online video content, it’s expected to hit 83,298PB by 2018. But the predictions may not be reliable.

The vast majority of last year’s consumer IP traffic came from fixed line Internet connections, while only 1,189 PB of the total came via mobile networks (e.g. 3G and 4G). But consumer mobile data traffic is now rising at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 62% versus just 20% for the more mature fixed line broadband market. In both cases Internet video content is the largest single segment, gobbling 17,455PB of traffic per month in 2013 and rising to 62,972PB by 2018.


Just to put this all into a little perspective, a humble 8Mbps (Megabits per second) broadband line can also be converted to around 1MBps (MegaBytes per second). After that it goes a little like this.. and yes it’s an awful lot of data (note: change all 1000 to 1024 below if you prefer)!

1000 GigaBytes = 1 Terabyte
1000 TeraBytes = 1 PetaByte
1000 PetaBytes = 1 ExaByte
1000 ExaBytes = 1 ZettaByte

Cisco claims that global IP traffic for fixed and mobile connections, of all types (business and consumer), is expected to reach an annual run rate of 1.6 ZettaBytes per year (over one and a half trillion GigaBytes) by 2018. In other words the projected annual IP traffic for 2018 will be greater than all IP traffic that has been generated globally from 1984 – 2013 (1.3 ZettaBytes).

The video streaming and IP broadcast traffic from the forthcoming 2014 Brazil World Cup alone is anticipated to generate 4.3 ExaBytes.

consumer internet traffic 2014 cisco

The report also includes some predictions concerning broadband speeds, which are always somewhat subject to the availability and indeed adoption of faster connectivity solutions. For example, in Western Europe the average fixed line broadband download speed will grow 2.5-fold from 19.3Mbps in 2013 to 49Mbps by 2018 (note: come 2020 the EU wants 50% of people to be subscribed via 100Mbps+). The average mobile broadband connection will also grow 2-fold from 2013 to 2018, reaching 3,003Kbps (3Mbps) in 2018.


Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the average fixed broadband speed will grow 2.4-fold from 22.2Mbps in 2013 to 54Mbps by 2018 and the average mobile broadband speed will grow 2-fold from 2013 to 2018, reaching 3,126Kbps (3.1Mbps) in 2018. By comparison Ofcom recently reported that the average real-world fixed line UK download speed was 17.8Mbps (here) and Ookla’s Net Index puts the current figure at 28Mbps (note: Ookla’s data tends to be more optimistic due to how it weights the results and the inclusion of business lines).

But how reliable are Cisco’s predictions? Looking back two years ago reveals that Cisco’s original prediction for Consumer Internet traffic in 2013 was 41,849PB per month and in the following year this was revised downwards to 33,337PB, before today’s official / actual figure of 29,071PB was reported. In other words there’s quite a wide margin for error, although Cisco’s latest predictions appear to be more conservative, but we’d still question their assumptions for 2017 and 2018.

Cisco Visual Networking Index 2014-2018

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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