The Beast Is Rapidly Growing More Than Ever


Cisco predicts that the Internet will quadruple in size over the next four years. In fact, the incremental growth in Internet traffic between 2014 and 2015 will be 17.2 exabytes per month. That growth alone is roughly the amount of all global Internet traffic recorded last year.

Video And Mobile Are Breaking The Internet
By David Goldman @CNNMoneyTech

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Internet usage is growing so rapidly that just its incremental, one-year growth between 2014 and 2015 will be equal to all the Internet traffic recorded worldwide last year.

Four years from now, the Internet's traffic volume will be so large that every five minutes it will be the equivalent of downloading every movie ever made. In 2015, monthly Internet traffic will reach the equivalent of 20 billion DVDs, 19 trillion MP3s or 500 quadrillion text messages.

Those are just some of the mind-blowing statistics released Wednesday in Cisco's annual Visual Networking Index, a comprehensive view and forecast of the data trends shaping the Internet.

Experts consider Cisco's forecast to be the gold standard for Internet analysis. The annual study, which began in 2008, has historically been accurate to within a 5% to 10% deviation -- usually on the conservative side.

"I think a lot of analysts viewed it as self-serving, but it's taken on much greater importance as some of the forecasts have turned out to be fairly accurate," said Vince Vittore, analyst at Yankee Group.

Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) predicts that by 2015, Internet traffic will be significantly more mobile, and it will be mostly made up of video. The data is cool, but the real-world impact may be overwhelming.

Mobile: Traffic generated by mobile devices has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the Internet for years: Mobile traffic in 2010 alone was triple the size of the entire Internet in 2000.

But it's growing even larger. The proliferation of smartphones, netbooks and tablets means that there will be roughly one mobile device for every individual alive in 2015. Cisco predicts there will be 7.1 billion mobile, connected devices four years from now, at which point there will be 7.2 billion people on Earth, according to the World Bank.

That will send mobile traffic through the roof. Internet usage on mobile devices will grow by more than 26-fold between last year and 2015, Cisco predicts.

It's not just smartphones driving that traffic. Internet traffic generated just by tablets -- which barely existed two years ago -- will be larger in 2015 than the size of the entire mobile Internet in 2010.

All of that traffic is going to place a tremendous burden on the world's wireless infrastructure. As a result, Cisco believes networks will have to rapidly adopt significantly more efficient technologies.

"4G adoption will have to happen fast, and perhaps faster than what we have anticipated," said Suraj Shetty, vice president at Cisco.

Video: Last year, video comprised the majority of consumer Internet traffic for the first time, making up 53% of all uploads and downloads. By 2015, video traffic will more than quadruple, and the Internet will be two-thirds made up of video.

If you include peer-to-peer file sharing, including services like BitTorrent, then video actually will make up 90% of all Internet traffic in four years, Cisco predicts.

By 2015, 1 million minutes of video -- the equivalent of 674 consecutive days of viewing -- will cross the Internet every second, and the community of online video users will double to just over 1 billion people.

Though YouTube, live sports, and video calling are all growing, more than half of Internet video will be made up of long-form streaming videos, such as movies and TV shows delivered by services like Hulu and Netflix (NFLX).

Just as mobile data is expected to overload wireless networks, fixed broadband lines may not be able to cope with the increase in video watching either. As a result, service providers will have to get creative about how they deliver video to end users.

"There's a very clear Netflix impact, which consumes a tremendous amount of bandwidth," Shetty said. "Networks are going to have to become intelligent, because they cannot handle video the same way they handle Web traffic. You can't just keep throwing bandwidth at this problem."

A Cell Tower That Fits In The Palm Of Your Hand?


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- As mobile data usage skyrockets, wireless companies are spending billions each year to maximize capacity, and consumers end up footing the cost in the form of higher cell phone bills.

But a cube that fits in the palm of your hand could help solve that problem.

It's called lightRadio, a Rubik's cube-sized device made by Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) that takes all of the components of a cell phone tower and compresses them down into a 2.3-inch block. Unlike today's cell towers and antennas, which are large, inefficient and expensive to maintain, lightRadio is tiny, capacious and power-sipping.

As tiny as it is, it has been tasked with solving an enormous problem.

The global wireless industry is spending $210 billion a year to operate their networks, and $50 billion to upgrade them, according to Alcatel-Lucent and PRTM. Networks are dealing with that cost by putting data caps in place with heavy overage charges and by raising prices on their smartphone and tablet plans.

Despite all that spending and pressure on consumers to curb their data usage, the networks are fighting a losing battle. Mobile data usage is expected to grow 30 times in the next four to five years and 500 times in the next ten years, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

With a combination of miniaturization and cloud technology, lightRadio just might be able to help wireless carriers keep pace with their customers.

When conceiving of lightRadio, Alcatel-Lucent's engineers stripped out all the heavy power equipment that controls modern cell towers, and moved them to centralized stations. That allows the lightRadio cubes to be made small enough to be deployed virtually anywhere and practically inconspicuously: Atop bus station awnings, on the side of buildings or on lamp posts.

Their small size and centralized operation lets wireless companies control the cubes virtually. That makes the antennas up to 30% more efficient than current cell towers. Live data about who is using the cubes can be assessed, and the antennas' directional beams can be shifted to maximize their potential. For instance, radios may be pointed in one direction as people are coming to work in the morning and another direction as they're leaving work at the end of the day.

The lightRadio units also contain multi-generational antennas that can relay 2G, 3G and 4G network signals all from the same cube. That cuts down on interference and doubles the number of bits that can be sent through the air.

Today's cell towers, by contrast, send power in all different directions, most of which is lost, since it doesn't reach anyone's particular devices. They're inefficient in other ways as well: Roughly half of the power from cell towers' base stations is lost before it makes its way up to the antennas at the top of the tower. And they have separate antennas for 2G, 3G and 4G networks, causing interference problems.

All of lightRadio's smart technology and power efficiency can help cut carriers' operating costs in half, Alcatel-Lucent believes.

"We need to think differently about this, because no one wants limits," said Tod Sizer, head of wireless research at Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Laboratories. "We hope to solve this problem so that the AT&Ts (T, Fortune 500), Verizons (VZ, Fortune 500) and Sprints (S, Fortune 500) of the world will be able to provide the data capacity that is needed by the customer."

The lightRadio trials will begin in September 2011, and the company expects to be producing them in volume by 2012. Several carriers have expressed interest in the technology, and Sprint Nextel plans to try out the cubes later this year.

"Sprint is talking to Alcatel Lucent about this technology and we will be working with them to test and evaluate it," a Sprint spokeswoman said. "We have been aggressive in smaller factor cell sites to help us support the growth in data traffic."

Sizer said he sees lightRadio as a complimentary technology to existing cell towers. Those big antennas still serve a purpose, providing long distance signals or beams down a highway.

But as wireless companies add infrastructure to keep up with the ever-rising data demands from tablets and smartphones, carriers are finding that they're running into a cost and a space issue: Towers are expensive, and they're running out of room to erect new ones.

Each 1.5-Watt lightRadio cube powers about a two-block radius, so in urban areas, they can be deployed throughout the city and stacked like Lego blocks in stadiums or other areas that need extra capacity. In rural areas, they can be deployed atop existing cell towers in arrays.

"The thing that's incenting us to move quickly is that more and more people are using smartphones, and my customers are being crushed by the enormous amount of data that people want to use," said Sizer. "We have to meet the access demands of the consumer, who wants to access data in any place."