Live video usage will increase 15-fold by 2021, Cisco predicts

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The global internet will support 3 trillion minutes of video consumption a month by 2021.

Live video usage will increase 15-fold over the next five years and account for 13% of global internet traffic by 2021, Cisco said in its annual study of what the internet is being used for.

In recent iterations of Cisco’s annual Visual Networking Index, video has been the driving force for global data usage expansion. And that hasn’t changed. With global IP traffic expected to increase threefold from 2016 to 2021, reaching 3.3 zettabytes in five years, video’s share will expand from 73% to 82% over the time frame. The global internet will support 3 trillion minutes of video consumption a month by 2021.

But while on-demand streaming of Netflix HD remains the staple usage pattern, new subtypes of video consumption are helping drive usage growth even further. The emergence of virtual MVPDs, as well as livestreaming on social media, is but one example. 


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“Livestreaming is replacing broadcast,” said Cisco Senior Analyst Shruti Jain. “Most livestreams are unicast. This is going to be a significant source of traffic going forward.”

As streamed video shifts from being a purely on-demand proposition to a live one, other iterations of video will increase, as well. Virtual reality and augmented reality, for example, will increase 20-fold over the next five years. The number of homes with flat-panel connected 4K TV sets, meanwhile, will increase from 16 million to 56 million in five years. 

Consumption of video will be primarily over mobile devices. Wi-Fi and mobile will generate 73% of traffic by 2021. Globally, the number of homes equipped with Wi-Fi will grow from 85 million in 2016 to 526.2 million in 2021. By that year, smartphones will account for 33% of global IP traffic.

Asia-Pacific will remain the data consumption leader in five years, using an estimated 107.7 exabytes a month by 2021. The “APAC” region will be followed by North America (85 exabytes), Western Europe (37 exabytes) and Central Europe (17.1 exabytes).

This is the 12th consecutive year that Cisco has conducted the research project, which is culled from a variety of outside sources and includes numerous instances of the cloud technology giant creating models based on the third-party data. 


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