Looking at the near future of the internet is largely a question of scale. It's not about whether there will be more users and devices or whether speeds will be faster, but by how much.
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Cisco's 2018 Visual Networking Index report forecasts that 4.8 billion people, or 60 percent of the world's population, will be connected to the internet by 2022. That's up from 3.4 billion in 2017. Those 4.8 billion users will own approximately 3.6 connected devices per person (up from 2.4 in 2017) to consume a whopping 85GB of combined internet traffic per user per month in 2022, up from 29GB in 2017.
For North America, that forecast jumps to 261GB per person per month with 13.4 networked devices and connections per person.
By far the biggest factor behind this growth will be the explosion of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. These include smart home devices, connected cars, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices across work settings, health trackers and wearables, and all the connected devices and utilities populating smart cities. By 2022, M2M will acccount for 51 percent (14.6 billion) of total global devices and connections.
All of these users and devices will drive a massive increase in global internet traffic. Cisco projects that by 2022, global IP traffic will reach an annual run rate of 4.8 zettabytes per year. That's nearly 11 times more than all IP traffic generated in 2012.
The data will also be flowing far faster. Average broadband speeds will hit around 75Mbps worldwide in 2022, according to Cisco, up from 39Mbps in 2017. The projected 2022 average in North America is 94Mbps. Thanks to the deployment of 5G technology, cellular network speeds are are set to triple, from 8.7Mbps worldwide in 2017 to 28.5Mbps in 2022. Global Wi-Fi speeds will see a boost as well, up to an average of 54Mbps worldwide in 2022.
As for what'll be taking up all that bandwidth, the Cisco Visual Networking Index forecasts that 80 percent of all internet traffic will be made up of video streaming in 2022. This includes both short videos, such as you find on YouTube, and longer videos from streaming services including Netflix, plus live internet and social-media videos and live video streams from from home security systems and other surveillance systems.
According to Cisco, we can also expect a boost in augmented and virtual reality traffic, from 0.33 exabytes per month in 2017 up to 4.02 exabytes in 2022.