Words like "staggering" and "huge" don't adequately describe Cisco's projected growth of mobile data traffic through 2015.
The networking firm Tuesday released a forecast that shows a 26-fold increase in mobile data traffic from 2010 to 2015.
The projection is equal to an annual growth rate of 75 exabytes through 2015. That is equal to 19 billion DVDs or 536 quadrillion SMS texts, or 75 times all the Internet Protocol traffic created in the year 2000.
Video over mobile devices will be a big cause of the growth, along with a surge in smartphone and tablet use, Cisco said. The mobile data growth rate is about 92% annually.
By 2015, Cisco projects that there will be more than 5.6 billion personal devices in use as well as an additional 1.5 billion machine-to-machine devices. The projected numbers are nearly the equivalent of one mobile connection for every person in the world.
Mobile video will account for two-thirds of all mobile data traffic by 2015, up 35 times over the five year period of the study, Cisco said. That is the highest of any mobile data application.
Mobile traffic from tablets is expected to grow 205 times from 2010 to 2015, the most of any device.
The Middle East and Africa will have the highest mobile data traffic growth, followed by Latin America, central and eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific. Western Europe will follow North America and Japan at the bottom of the list. Even so, Japan will have a 70% annual growth rate, according to Cisco's projections.
By country, India's mobile data traffic is expected to grow the fastest, at 158% annually, followed by South Africa and Mexico. The U.S. growth rate is projected at 83% a year.
Cisco also said that mobile network connection speeds will increase 10-fold by 2015 based on current trends.
The report estimates average mobile connection speeds will grow from 215 Kbit/sec in 2010 to 2.2 Mbit/sec in 2015. The 2010 number is based on the Cisco Global Internet Speed Test, which tracks 390,000 global users on their non-WiFi cellular connections. Smartphone connection speeds are projected to increase from 1.04 Mbit/sec in 2010 to 4.4 Mbit/sec in 2015, a four-fold increase.
Suraj Shetty, vice president of worldwide service provider marketing at Cisco, said that global mobile data traffic increased by 2.6 times from 2009 to 2010, an indication of the coming trend.
"The seemingly endless bevy of new mobile devices, combined with greater mobile broadband access, more content and applications of all types--especially video--are the key catalysts driving this remarkable growth," he said in a statement.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.