The age of face-to-face conversation is pretty much over

It wouldn’t quite be June if we didn’t have rain or Cisco’s annual VNI forecast. We’ve had plenty of rain, now it’s time to tuck into some stats!

You probably didn’t need us to tell you, but internet traffic is going to grow. The total number of internet users by the end of 2021 is forecast to hit 4.6 billion across the globe, accounting for a whopping 58% of the global population. This is up from an estimated 3.3 billion in 2016, with mobile accounting for roughly 20% of the total.

Five years ago, mobile traffic accounted for 2%, and last year this increased to 8%, with the high growth trend set to continue over the next five years. The volume of mobile data traffic will reach 49 exabytes per month by 2021, and will have an annual run rate of over half a zettabyte. The reliance on mobile is becoming more and more prominent in our day-to-day lives, as even pessimists and technophobes are being converted to services such as mobile banking.

And while it might depress some who have been accustomed to a bygone era of face-to-face conversations, the blue screens are going to become more addictive apparently.

“This is an astounding trend, particularly considering how prominently PC traffic has always figured in IP traffic,” said Cisco’s Arielle Sumits. “In 2011, PCs generated 94% of total IP traffic. In 2021, PCs will be less than 30% of total IP traffic, and smartphones will be the device category with the highest share at 48%.”

Another interesting statistic is the reality of IoT. For many years, IoT has been one of those trends which we have discussed without seeing the real-world impact. This is about to change apparently. Smartphone connections will continue to dominate the mobile networks for the moment, though by 2019, Cisco anticipate the balance of power shifting.

By 2019, IoT connections will account for more mobile additions than smartphones, tablets, and PCs. And by 2021, 638 million IoT modules will be added, while smartphone, tablet and PC additions will reach 381 million.

From a 5G perspective, there will also be a slight impact over the next five years. 2020 has been earmarked as the finish line for a number of operators, though no-one should forget about 4G too quickly. By 2021, 5G will account for roughly 0.2% of mobile connections, though each connection will generate nearly 30 gigabytes per month, almost five times higher than the average 4G connection. These estimates would see 5G take 1.5% of the total traffic despite the modest number of connections.

“There are several issues that remain to be addressed before significant commercial 5G deployments commence (starting in 2020),” said Shruti Jain, one of Cisco’s analysts. “Can you imagine the impact of 5G on today’s data cap structures? Currently, top 1% of mobile users consume 30 GB of monthly data. When 5G is introduced, 30GB will be the average.”

As you can probably imagine, a lot of this traffic will be video, in fact 80% of it will be. Video will dominate IP traffic and overall Internet traffic growth representing 80% of all Internet traffic by 2021, up from 67% in 2016. This means there will be 1.9 billion Internet video users by 2021, as well as three trillion internet video minutes per month, about one million video minutes every second. That is a lot of cat videos.

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