File-Sharing Traffic Predicted to Double By 2015


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Forecasts from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index reveal that global file-sharing traffic is predicted to grow to nearly 14 exabytes per month by 2015. According to the predictions most growth will occur in Latin America, and both Central and Eastern Europe. Least growth is expected in Western Europe.
Predicting future Internet traffic trends is a tricky business, but if one company is able to pull it off it’s Cisco. Every year they publish their 5-year forecast for global Internet traffic usage, and one of the major categories included in the report is file-sharing.

This week Cisco published their latest version of the Visual Networking Index, which offers some interesting insights into the development of Internet traffic in the coming years. One of the main conclusions is that relative to overall Internet traffic, file-sharing is on a downslope.

Cisco’s data shows that in 2010 file-sharing traffic was responsible for a massive 40% of all consumer Internet traffic. However, by 2015 this percentage will drop to ‘just’ 24%, because other sources of traffic – such as video streaming services Netflix and YouTube – will grow at an even greater rate.

But that doesn’t mean that less data will be shared, on the contrary; Cisco predicts that global file-sharing traffic will continue to grow at an average rate of 23% per year. This means that by 2015, file-sharing traffic will increase to 13,797 petabytes per month, up from a measly 4,968 petabytes in 2010. Compared to today, file-sharing traffic will more than double by 2015 if Cisco’s predictions hold.

Although there’s no region where file-sharing traffic is not expected to increase, the growth will be most pronounced in Latin America and both Central and Eastern Europe, with an annual growth rate of 35%. North America sits in the middle with a growth rate of 18%. Western Europe stays behind with a meager 14% uplift a year, but this still means that file-sharing traffic will double there in 2015 compared to 2010.

Another interesting trend that’s worth noting is that non-P2P file-sharing traffic is on the rise. With non-P2P Cisco refers to direct download services such as RapidShare and Megaupload. These will generate an estimated 5,680 petabytes a month by 2015, an increase of more than 600% compared to 2010.

Although Cisco’s predictions are noteworthy, one has to wonder how accurate they are. Just last year Cisco estimated that file-sharing traffic would be good for 7 exabytes by 2014, but a year later this has already been adjusted to more than 11 exabytes. Quite a difference for a seemingly uneventful year with no major breakthroughs in the file-sharing landscape.

But then again, even the best fortune-tellers have an occasional off-day. The overall conclusion, that file-sharing is here to stay, is something we have to agree with.