In the digital world, data is measured in bytes. A single digital character, a letter or number, is a single byte. A typewritten page is about 2,000 bytes, or two kilobytes, and a small, low-resolution image is about 100,000 bytes, or 100 kilobytes. There are about 5 million bytes, or 5 megabytes, in the complete works of Shakespeare, and a pickup truck full of books might amount to one billion bytes, or a gigabyte. One billion of those book-filled pickup trucks, or one billion gigabytes, is an exabyte.
The term “exaflood,” coined by Bret Swanson of Progress & Freedom Foundation, refers to the growing torrent of data on the Internet. By 2010, Internet users worldwide could produce as much as 988 exabytes of data. The Internet was famously overbuilt during the 1990s, but much of that capacity is being used now or soon will be. A shortage of bandwidth will slow down service for everybody, possibly causing Internet brownouts or service interruptions.
The good news is that with investment and wise public policy, we can upgrade our broadband networks to meet the challenge of the coming “exaflood,” ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from everything the Internet has to offer.
Exaflood facts and figures:
- Annual global IP traffic will exceed two-thirds of a zettabyte (667 exabytes) in four years. Last year’s forecast anticipated a run rate of 522 exabytes per year in 2012. The economic downturn has only slightly tempered traffic growth, and this year’s forecast predicts 510 exabytes per year in 2012, growing to 667 exabytes per year or 56 exabytes per month in 2013.
- Global IP traffic will quintuple from 2008 to 2013. Overall, IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent.
Global Internet Highlights
- In 2013, the Internet will be nearly four times larger than it is in 2009. By year-end 2013, the equivalent of 10 billion DVDs will cross the Internet each month.
Global Video Highlights
- Internet video is now approximately one-third of all consumer Internet traffic, not including the amount of video exchanged through P2P file sharing.
- The sum of all forms of video (TV, video on demand, Internet, and P2P) will account for over 91 percent of global consumer traffic by 2013. Internet video alone will account for over 60 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2013.
- In 2013, Internet video will be nearly 700 times the U.S. Internet backbone in 2000. It would take well over half a million years to watch all the online video that will cross the network each month in 2013. Internet video will generate over 18 exabytes per month in 2013.
- Video communications traffic growth is accelerating. Though still a small fraction of overall Internet traffic, video over instant messaging and video calling are experiencing high growth. Video communications traffic will increase tenfold from 2008 to 2013.
- Real-time video is growing in importance. By 2013, Internet TV will be over 4 percent of consumer Internet traffic, and ambient video will be 8 percent of consumer Internet traffic. Live TV has gained substantial ground in the past few years: globally, P2P TV is now slightly over 7 percent of overall P2P traffic at over 200 petabytes per month.
- Video-on-demand (VoD) traffic will double every two years through 2013. Consumer IPTV and CATV traffic will grow at a 53 percent CAGR between 2008 and 2013, compared to a CAGR of 40 percent for consumer Internet traffic.
Global Mobile Highlights
- Globally, mobile data traffic will double every year through 2013, increasing 66x between 2008 and 2013. Mobile data traffic will grow at a CAGR of 131 percent between 2008 and 2013, reaching over 2 exabytes per month by 2013.
- Almost 64 percent of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2013. Mobile video will grow at a CAGR of 150 percent between 2008 and 2013.
- Mobile broadband handsets with higher than 3G speeds and laptop aircards will drive over 80 percent of global mobile traffic by 2013. A single high-end phone (such as an iPhone or Blackberry) generates more data traffic than 30 basic-feature cell phones. A laptop aircard generates more data traffic than 450 basic-feature cell phones.