The phrases “Internet of things” and “M2M” have long since grown tiresome, but one reason they seem overused is because the trend they describe is real. According to Cisco’s latest global Internet traffic report, machine to machine (M2M) Internet traffic is showing growth and has begun to have a measurable impact on global IP networks.

Cisco released the latest version of its annual Visual Networking Index (VNI), which also attested to the ongoing nature of other well-known trends: on a global basis, more people are getting connected, data consumption is increasing, more devices and more different kinds of devices are being used for access, global IP traffic is heading toward zettabyte levels, and video represents a growing constituent element of global traffic.

There were 2 billion M2M connections as of 2012, and projecting current trends, that will triple to 6 billion by 2017. M2M traffic is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 82 percent.

Annual global M2M IP traffic will grow by a factor of 20 from 197 petabytes in 2012 (or about 0.5 percent of global IP traffic) to 3.9 exabytes by 2017 (or 3 percent of global IP traffic).

Applications such as video surveillance, smart meters, asset/package tracking, chipped pets/livestock, digital health monitors and a host of other next-generation M2M services are driving this growth, Cisco said.

Overall Internet traffic growth and service penetration is driven by a number of factors, including:

  • More global Internet users: Roughly 28 percent of all people in the world had an Internet connection as of last year. By 2017, nearly half – 48 percent of all people (or about 3.6 billion) – will be Internet users.
  • Faster broadband: Globally, the average fixed broadband speed will increase 3.5-fold from 2012-2017, from 11.3 Mbps to 29 Mbps.
  • More devices and connections: By 2017, there will be more than 19 billion global network connections (fixed/mobile personal devices, M2M connections, etc), up from about 12 billion connections in 2012. Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 68% of Internet traffic by 2017.
  • More video: Global network users will generate 3 trillion Internet video minutes per month, equivalent to 6 million years of video per month or 1.2 million video minutes every second.

Also in keeping with ongoing trends, PCs continue to be ever less likely to be the connection device of choice. According to Cisco, as of 2012, 26 percent of Internet traffic originated with non-PC devices, but by 2017 the non-PC share of Internet traffic will grow to 49 percent.

PC-originated traffic will grow at a 14 percent CAGR, while other devices/connections will have higher traffic growth rates over the forecast period: TVs (24 percent), tablets (104 percent), smartphones (79 percent), and machine-to-machine (M2M) modules (82 percent).

Video is dominating traffic, as it has for years. Globally, consumer Internet video traffic will be 69 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2017, up from 57 percent in 2012.

Cisco said those numbers do not include video exchanged through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. If that activity is added in, then the sum of all forms of video (TV, video on demand, Internet, and P2P) will be in  the range of 80- to 90 percent of global consumer traffic by 2017.

The increasing adoption of smart TVs led to the amount of Internet video to TV doubling in 2012 to 9 percent of all video traffic. Internet video to TV traffic will be 14 percent of consumer Internet video traffic in 2017, according to Cisco’s VNI.

Video-on-demand traffic will nearly triple by 2017. The amount of VoD traffic in 2017 will be equivalent to 6 billion DVDs per month, the company estimated.  

By 2017, 3D and HD Internet video will comprise 63 percent of consumer Internet video traffic.

Content delivery network (CDN) traffic will deliver almost two-thirds of all video traffic by 2017 – 65 percent, compared to 53 percent in 2012.

Cisco didn’t specifically associate the following numbers to video, but video is well known to jump during “busy hours” – right after schools tend to let out, and on through the evening when TV viewing has always gone up. Busy hour Internet traffic is increasing faster than average Internet traffic, the VNI noted. Busy hour Internet traffic increased 41 percent in 2012, compared to 34 percent growth in average traffic.

Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 68 percent of Internet traffic by 2017. Fixed/Wi-Fi traffic will grow at a CAGR of 26 percent between 2012 and 2017, compared to a 16 percent CAGR for fixed/wired traffic.