Broadband demand from 4K video, data-intensive files and an increase in connected individuals will mean more Internet traffic in 2018 than all the years from 1984 through 2013 combined, according to Cisco's latest annual Internet traffic forecast.
Video, particularly 4K, will contribute greatly to total broadband usage, and non-PC devices will become more common as people move away from regular desktop computers. Wi-Fi traffic will exceed wired traffic for the first time.
Internet traffic in the United States will grow from 15 exabytes per month to 37 exabytes per month in 2018, according to the forecast. The increase will make the job of Internet service providers (ISPs) more difficult as it will make network upgrades necessary.
Cisco says that 1.6 zettabytes of data will be generated during 2018, with data usage expected to grow each year after that.
Cisco's report shows that many of the Internet traffic trends that are just beginning to show up will be more important in four years. Among those trends is the increase in reliance on wireless networks and non-PC devices. By 2018, Cisco says that 75 percent of all Internet traffic will be coming from wireless networks, though the majority of that will be the result of Wi-Fi networks.
The Internet of Things is not yet contributing to Internet usage in any significant way, but that will slowly change over the next few years. Cisco's data shows that by 2018, broadband usage from the Internet of Things will reach 2 percent, whereas right now, the percentage is negligible. At that point there will be nearly as many machine-to-machine connections as there are people on earth.
Analysts have differed on whether the tablet market is a bubble that is about to pop or a market that is going to grow as time passes. Cisco's report seems to back up the latter, since it predicts that tablets will account for 18 percent of Web traffic in 2018, compared with 4 percent in 2013.
Dealing With Video
One of the most difficult trends that ISPs will have to deal with over the next few years is the increase in 4K video usage. Streaming sites like Netflix are already starting to offer 4K video and when other sites do the same, broadband usage will grow significantly.
"Ultra HD video will account for 11 percent of IP video traffic by 2018, up from 0.1 percent in 2013," says Cisco's report. "HD video will account for 52 percent of IP video traffic by 2018 (up from 36 percent) and SD will account for the remaining 37 percent (down from 64 percent)."
Video will account for 79 percent of Internet traffic overall. The average household will be using at least 73 GB of data each month by 2018, according to the report.