May 30, 2012 at 2:55 PM ET
Buckle up and hold onto your phones, tablets, digital video clips and Wi-Fi connections, because they're all contributing to a global explosion in Internet traffic. It's expected to increase four times to 1.3 zettabytes by 2016, according to Cisco's VIsual Networking Index Forecast.
That's a lot of traffic and a whole lot of bytes (one zettabyte is equal to a trillion gigabytes).
By 2016, Internet traffic globally is expected to reach 150 petabytes an hour, or "the equivalent of 278 million people streaming an HD movie ... simultaneously," Cisco says.
The highest-traffic generating countries in 2016 will be the United States, followed by China, says Cisco.
What's driving this growth? A good part of it are all the phones, tablets and other "smart devices," including TV sets with Internet connections, that we're adopting.
By 2016, there will be nearly 18.9 billion network connections — "almost 2.5 connections for each person on earth" — compared with 10.3 billion network connections in 2011, Cisco says.
Last year, while PCs "generated 94 percent of consumer Internet traffic," by 2016, that will decrease to 81 percent. Meanwhile, mobile Internet data traffic is forecast to increase 18 times from 2011 to 2016.
There are other factors, too, Cisco says:
"Each of us increasingly connects to the network via multiple devices in our always-on connected lifestyles," said Suraj Shetty, Cisco's vice president of product and solutions marketing, in a statement. "Whether by video phone calls, movies on tablets, web-enabled TVs, or desktop video conferencing, the sum of our actions not only creates demand for zettabytes of bandwidth, but also dramatically changes the network requirements needed to deliver on the expectations of this 'new normal.' "
"New normal" or more digital insanity? Only you will be the judge of that.