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Internet Traffic Growth Rate Falling by Half in U.S. According to Cisco VNI

In 2014, Cisco estimates Internet traffic growth in the U.S. will be less than 18%, far less than most previous estimates. Worldwide, they measure the current rate at 42% and expect that to fall to 30% in four years. Actual numbers at Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) is the definitive source on Internet traffic today because they have direct relationships with carriers from China Telecom to AT&T. Their future estimates are the most carefully done publicly available.

Arielle Sumits of Cisco warns to be cautious with future predictions because “we try to be conservative in our estimates.” One reason to consider is that China Telecom’s estimates for growth the next few years are higher than Cisco’s. NTT America’s Mike Wheeler is seeing 70%+ growth rates currently. He’s seeing exceptional demand from Latin America, where broadband is booming.

Sumits expects p2p growth to fall to 16% in some markets, corresponding to many reports over the last three years. AT&T actually had a quarter where p2p traffic fell in absolute terms, although that was an exception. People who download typically already have more than they can listen to for the remainder of their life. In the U.S. and Britain, most of the current popular shows are available to watch for free at Hulu and similar. It’s easier to listen to a few commercials than go through the hassle of downloading.

Ironically, this drop in p2p growth is occurring when the actual speed of downloads has been going up dramatically. I did some tests on Bittorrent and was typically able to get 3 or 4 times the speed two years ago. On a ten meg Time Warner Cable connection, popular downloads came in at 2 meg to 8 meg most of the time. The typical hour long TV show, encoded at 700K (not great), took 10-20 minutes. Set it running overnight and 22 episodes of Lost are there in the morning.

Even 10-25% growth in bandwidth per user is still a great deal in absolute terms and will require thoughtful network planning.

More, including a chart with crucial data and highlights from Cisco’s report on DSL Prime.

By Dave Burstein, Editor, DSL Prime

Dave Burstein has edited DSL Prime and written about broadband and Internet TV for a decade.

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Nice to see some conservatism Christopher Parente  –  Jun 17, 2010 2:35 PM

Dave—thanks for the post and the numbers. It’s good to see Cisco encouraging a conservative read, since they clearly would seem to have a business motive to hype growth numbers.

Heard Vint Cerf talk a couple of days ago about the slowing growth. Not as dramatic as a few years ago, but still growing substantially and will continue to do so. This constant growth (and the—finally—faster average speeds) will require careful network planning.

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