Cisco’s Visual Networking Index forecast update for 2018 shows that there will be 1.4 billion more people using the internet by 2022 than the 3.4 billion users in 2017. There will also be significant growth in M2M and in 5G connections.

The 4.8 billion users represent about 60% of what the global population will be in 2022, assuming there will be 8 billion people on the planet. Having more internet users also means that ever-increasing quantities of data will be transmitted over the internet, establishing the multi-zettabyte era. By 2022, internet users will consume 4.8 zettabytes of data a year, which is 11 times the amount of IP traffic generated in 2012, with 437 exabytes.

A zettabyte is 1 trillion gigabytes, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.

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The index specifically measures how many devices and connections will be supported by global IP networks. “We don’t assume that everyone is using the fastest connection or has the fastest connection possible. There are variables, so we look at the growth and then what people are doing on the network. Which, not surprisingly, is video. We looked at how the composition of that video is changing in many ways,” explained Thomas Barnett Jr, director of SP Thought Leadership for Cisco.

Much of that growth will come from emerging markets. In North America and Western Europe the markets are mature, with 90% of the population already using the internet. In parts of Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as rural parts of Asia Pacific, there’s still room for growth, Barnett said.

The number of devices and connections will grow even faster than the number of internet users.

There will be a total of 28.5 billion devices and connections in 2022, compared to 18 billion in 2017. Broadband speeds will continue to increase, to 75.4 Mbps in 2022, compared to 39 Mbps in 2017. The index also revealed that 82% of internet traffic will come from videos, compared to 75% in 2017.

5G connections by 2022

The index also looked at 5G and where it will be in the next few years.

Right now 4G is the dominant cellular connection type, and there are issues in regards to spectrum, capacity and how service providers will transition from older networks into 5G, Barnett said.

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“At this point, we’re looking at about 400,000 5G connections by 2019. That grows more than 1,000 fold to over 400 million by 2022. The 5G connections would represent about 3.4% of all cellular or mobile connections by 2022,” Barnett said. “We see 5G as being driven largely by IoT…In this age I don’t think that there can be a ‘build it and they will come.’ There has to be suitable use cases of return on investment and other things that make it worthwhile, not only for the service provider, but for an end user. The performance of 4G for many is very good right now. That’s why we think IoT will be one of the key drivers, especially with smart cars and other applications that require low latency and higher speeds. 5G could be an optimal access type for those types of applications.

Growth in M2M connections

More than half (51%) of the connections by 2022 will be machine to machine (M2M), with 14.6 billion connections.

“That translates to about two machine-to-machine connections per capita globally. Which is very significant, considering there’ll be nearly eight billion by 2022,” said Shruti Jain, senior analyst for Cisco. “This is a global phenomenon. All of the regions are going to be growing in the neighborhood of a 20% combined annual growth rate. It is not limited to any developed or any emerging regions. It’s very much a global trend at this point.”

The index also showed that the connected home will be the biggest segment of M2M connections during this time period, but the fastest growth will come from the connected car segment. Cities will also be adding M2M connectivity as part of smart city growth. The connections will include video surveillance cameras for public safety and security, as well as for other video-centered applications such as in-car entertainment and infotainment.

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