If you follow global data traffic trends, it's time to learn a new word. A zettabyte is 1 trillion gigabytes, and it succeeds the exabyte to describe the unimaginably gigantic amount of data zooming around the world's broadband networks.
According to a report released on Wednesday by Cisco, by 2016 the world's 19 billion global network connections will generate 1.3 zettabytes of data. To put this spike in perspective, this represents more traffic than the total amount of data generated between 1984 and 2011, Cisco says in its Visual Networking Index Forecast.
This explosive growth is being driven by a rise in the number of users, an increase in the number of connections per user, faster connections, and--most critically--what users are doing online. Video is taxing the world's fixed-line and wireless broadband networks.
By 2016, the connected world will include 4.5 billion mobile users, up from 3.7 billion in 2011. Residential fixed-line users will total 2.3 billion, up from 1.7 billion last year. The Cisco report predicts steep growth in Internet adoption in South America and Africa, where penetration has been lagging. India is expected to show some of the fastest growth in wireless broadband. The report predicts that in much of the developing world, broadband access will be more ubiquitous than electricity.
Broadband speeds are expected to rise to accommodate this flow of data. Currently, average global fixed-line broadband speed is 9 megabytes per second. That's predicted to climb to 34 mps in 2016, led by Western Europe and Asia.
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