by Eduard du Plessis, MD at EOH Network Solutions

Are you ready for the next constant of the future? Here’s a look at the projections for traffic growth in the next few years, as identified by Cisco.

The ‘zettabyte threshold’

According to Cisco, annual global IP traffic will surpass the so-called ‘zettabyte threshold’ in 2016. A zettabyte is equivalent to around 1 billion terabytes.

Cisco projects that this global traffic will amount to around 1.1 zettabytes, which breaks down to around 1 billion gigabytes per month, or 91 exabytes. Furthermore, by 2018 this traffic will increase to 132 exabytes per month. To put such large numbers into perspective, this is the equivalent of the amount of traffic generated by 5.5 billion people simultaneously watching the entire fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones via video-on-demand.

Where will this traffic be generated?

Cisco projects that over half of this traffic will come from non-PC devices. It will be primarily generated by TVs, tablets, smartphones and machine-to-machine (M2M) modules. M2M – the key technology behind the Internet of Everything – is growing so quickly that by 2018 there will be nearly as many M2M connections as there are people on earth. Smart cars alone will have roughly four M2M modules per car.

The impact of M2M will therefore be the most marked, with M2M traffic growing at a compound annual growth rate of 84% between now and 2018.

Growth in mobile traffic

Smartphones and tablets will continue to be the communication devices of choice for both individual consumers and enterprises. As a result mobile traffic will also soar and the traffic generated by mobile devices will surpass that generated by wired devices like PCs.

Cisco estimates that 61% of all global IP traffic will be generated by mobile devices by 2018.

Video traffic

Video is the type of traffic that should see the greatest surge in the next few years. This includes everything from the increase in mobile video usage to video-on-demand services.

Cisco expects video IP traffic to make up a whopping 79% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2018. To put some perspective on that, it would take a person over five million years to watch all the video traffic that will be generated in a single month.

Preparing for this traffic growth

Enterprises need to prepare for this dramatic surge in IP traffic. They need to ensure that they have the network capacity to cope with it, and that these networks will be able to scale as traffic grows. To future-proof businesses, these networks need to be on the right foundations that use the right architecture, so that they can deliver on their primary role of the seamless delivery of traffic and applications.

Networks will need to deliver applications much faster and must be able to deliver applications that we haven’t yet imagined.

And this must be achieved in the face of IT budgets that have been systematically cut for a while now, which forces IT departments to do more with less. This means that the networks, in turn, need to accomplish more with fewer resources. And therein lies the big challenge.

But one thing is clear – we can expect a massive growth in IP traffic over the next 2 years, so developing networks that can cope with this is imperative.


Eduard du Plessis Eduard du Plessis is an entrepreneur and telecommunications specialist. After graduating as a Mechanical Engineer in 1989, he spent some time in computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) which led him to IT and ultimately telecoms. Since 1997 he has been passionately involved in telecoms and has experience across all aspects of the business including business development, finance, product development, operations and product marketing. Eduard was the co-founder of InfoSat, the first broadband satellite Internet service provider in SA. He is also the founder of Ensync Network Solutions, a corporate network service provider and later also founded AfricaINX, a carrier wholesale telecoms service provider. After merging these two companies into the JSE listed IT company, EOH in 2010 he is now the MD of EOH Networks Solutions who is one of the leading telecoms companies in SA.