Internet Traffic May Grow 50-Fold by 2015

Published April 1, 2008

New technologies are dramatically transforming the Internet and could boost Internet protocol (IP) traffic in the United States more than 50-fold within the next decade, according to “Estimating the Exaflood: The Impact of Video and Rich Media on the Internet,” a new report released by the Discovery Institute.

“Innovations like YouTube, IPTV, high-definition video, and mobile phone cameras are driving this new wave of data–or exaflood–of Internet and IP traffic,” said Bret Swanson, an adjunct fellow at the Discovery Institute and co-author of the report.

“Many of the new online opportunities we can’t even imagine today,” Swanson said. “But these exciting applications and services will only be possible if we make large new investments in broadband fiber-optic and wireless networks.”

Usage Rising Rapidly

The 24-page report, co-authored by Swanson and George Gilder, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, describes the technologies and trends that will drive Internet growth in the coming decade. The study projects overall IP traffic levels and breaks them out by application as well.

For example, the report says by 2015 video calling and virtual windows could total 400 exabytes a year, or about 40 percent of U.S. traffic.

An exabyte, the authors note, is equal to one billion gigabytes, or approximately 50,000 times the entire contents of the U.S. Library of Congress. By the end of 2006, U.S. Internet traffic was already approaching one exabyte per month.

“As real broadband is deployed, these data tributaries will swell into an exaflood,” said Gilder.

“We’ve entered the third phase of Net evolution,” Swanson said.

“The first phase was the original Arpanet research project and early enthusiasts. The second phase was the e-mail and Web browser explosion of 1995 that brought the Net to the masses,” Swanson explained. “Today’s video and rich media surge begins the third phase. It will be bigger than the first two.”

Hance Haney ([email protected]) is director and senior fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute.

For more information …

“Estimating the Exaflood,” by Bret Swanson and George Gilder: