Reports and the resulting press releases, blogs and news stories about the ferocious increase in bandwidth consumption have been staples of telecommunications and IT journalism for the past few years. These reports have grown more extreme and frightening over time.
Welcome to Cisco's Visual Networking Index Global Data Forecast for 2009-2014. The company says that mobile bandwidth will undergo a 39-fold increase and reach 3.6 exabytes per month by 2014. That's a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 108 percent.
The press release offers a lot of comparisons designed to put the exotic-sounding metrics in context. One example:
Today, the average mobile broadband connection generates 1.3 gigabytes of traffic per month, which is equivalent to about 650 MP3 music files. By 2014, the average mobile broadband connection will generate 7 gigabytes of traffic per month -- equivalent to about 3,500 MP3 music files.
It goes on like that. An understated way of putting it is that there is a good deal of mobile traffic and that it is growing at a very fast clip.
Of course, this general trend line is news to nobody. Last week, I interviewed Jonathon Gordon, vice president of marketing for Allot Communications. He detailed a study the company just conducted that found a 72 percent growth in global wireless use. "There is no surprise that mobile bandwidth is growing, and growing significantly," Gordon said.
The general reasons for the explosion of mobile bandwidth consumption also are clear. BNET, in looking at IDC's total of last year's cell phone sales, noted that one of every seven was a smartphone. Look for that percentage to increase. Likewise, the introduction of the iPad by Apple will push the tablet category. ABI Research says it will expand from annual sales of 4 million this year to 57 million by 2015. That speaks as well as anything to the wave of traffic that could threaten to overcome the mobile domain. The envelope will be further pushed by the wide-scale rollout of 4G networks.
It is generally assumed that mobile bandwidth demand is increasing. That's been the case for a long time. What might be flying under the radar is that the rate of increase is accelerating. Thus, what was a food for thought for vendors, carriers and businesses a year ago should be a cause for a bit of worry today.