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UHD and cord-cutting driving explosive IP bandwidth growth

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As the mix of devices connected to the Internet skews toward IoT, bandwidth growth continues to be drive by devices with screens. Cisco sees UHD as highly influential but cord-cutting is having an impact in North America as well.

Overall growth in bandwidth

Cisco forecasts continued strong growth in worldwide IP traffic between 2017 and 2022. The company says the compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 26% per year will lead to monthly bandwidth consumption growing over 3-times, from 122 Exabytes per month to almost 400 Exabytes.~

Global IP bandwidth growth thru 2022The regions experiencing the highest growth rates are the Middle East and Africa, 41%, and Asia, 32%. However, it is Asia that will be driving the highest usage in 2022, 173 Exabytes a month, followed by North America, 108 Exabytes.

However, Asia growth in bandwidth usage stems from a huge increase in the number of people able to access the Internet. Users grow from 1.7 billion in 2017 to 2.6 billion in 2022. North America’s growth comes mostly from individual growth in usage, and the number of Internet users only increases by 22 million over the period, to 353 million users.

Device mix shifts but bandwidth drivers stay the same

Global Internet Traffic by Device TypeCisco says the number of devices connecting to the Internet is growing far faster (10% CAGR) than either the number of Internet users (7% CAGR) and the populations (1% CAGR.) Machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, including IoT device adoption, is the reason for this growth. The 18 billion devices connected to the Internet in 2017 included 34% M2M devices. By 2022, devices connected will have grown to 27 billion, with M2M share ballooning to 51%

When it comes to Internet bandwidth consumption, devices with screens continue to dominate. The biggest driver of usage is the smartphone. Cisco forecasts internet bandwidth consumed by these devices will increase share from 23% on 2017, to 50% in 2022. On the other hand, the TV’s share will shrink from 17% to 16% over the same period.

The smartphone’s massive growth over the television might seem counterintuitive at first. However, nScreenMedia reported earlier this year that the growth in the use of connected televisions for premium video viewing was confined to a few markets (including the US, UK, and Norway.) In other markets, like Asia, the smartphone continues to dominate.

Despite the massive increase in devices, M2M traffic increases its share of bandwidth from 3% to 6% over the period.

Video growth

Global video traffic share by resolution thru 2022Video remains the most important application on the Internet. The migration of consumer video services from bespoke networks, like cable and satellite, will remain a defining trend, at least through 2022. Cisco forecasts that Internet video bandwidth will grow from 55% of IP traffic in with 2017 to 71% in 2022. Gaming traffic also increases share, from 1% to 4%. All other applications lose bandwidth share.

A big part of the reason Gaming and Internet video grow so fast through 2022 is the steady rollout of Ultra HD 4K capable televisions. The company says worldwide 4K connected TVs will increase almost 5-times from 2017 to 2022, to 800 million. Consumers will increasingly opt to use 4K video streams as they watch and play through their UHD TVs.

UHD share of IP traffic will increase from 3% in 2017 to 22% in 2022. HD video streams will also increase, from 46% to 57% over the same period.

In the North American market, Cisco notes that cord cutting has a significant impact on bandwidth usage in the home. The company says that monthly usage in a cord-cutting home in 2017 was 141 Gbytes versus 82 GBytes for the average home. As cord-cutting accelerates in the U.S., the effect could become a dominant factor driving bandwidth consumption.

Video’s domination of Internet video bandwidth is having another effect. Primetime viewing is increasing the difference between average usage and busiest hour usage. Cisco forecast peak bandwidth will increase to just over 6 Petabytes versus an average usage of 1 petabyte per second. The ratio of peak to average will increase from just over 3 to 6.

Why it matters

Video continues to drive the growth in global IP traffic.

Though there will be more IoT devices connected to the Internet than any other by 2022, bandwidth growth will be driven by devices with screens.

Key driving factors in the acceleration of growth of video bandwidth are:

  • The roll-out of ultra HD connected televisions
  • In the North American market, the acceleration of cord-cutting.

~How big is an Exabyte? 10006 Bytes or 1,000,000 Terabytes.

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