Managing the data explosion

Managing the data explosion

Late last month Cisco Systems released its annual Visual Networking Index that tracks the company’s predictions for the growth of global network traffic over the upcoming five years. The report flags one of the biggest tech challenges facing businesses.

It’s no surprise this year’s report predicts global data traffic will grow at over 50% compounded each year, with Cisco expecting 24.3 exabytes to be pushed around the world’s networks each month by 2019.

Most of that network traffic will come from tablet and smartphones, with Cisco predicting data use will grow by up to a factor of five on those devices, with devices like wearables growing fourfold.

This growth creates a challenge for telcos as they invest in capacity to deal with the increased traffic and Cisco sees half of all smartphone connections will be handed off to Wi-Fi networks by the decade’s end.


Summary of per-device usage growth, MB per month


Device Type




22 MB/month

105 MB/month

M2M Module

70 MB/month

366 MB/month

Wearable Device

141 MB/month

479 MB/month


819 MB/month

3,981 MB/month

4G Smartphone

2,000 MB/month

5,458 MB/month


2,076 MB/month

10,767 MB/month

4G Tablet

2,913 MB/month

12,314 MB/month


2,641 MB/month

5,589 MB/month

Source: Cisco VNI Mobile, 2015

Handing half the growth in mobile traffic over to Wi-Fi connections, most of which will be connected to fibre or ADSL services will provide challenges for fixed line operators as well, who will see the demand for capacity also explode over the rest of the decade.

Much of this explains the moves by companies like Telstra to roll out public Wi-Fi services to start locking users into their services. It also gives them, and consumers, an opportunity to understand how networks that mix both cellular and Wi-Fi behave.

Another aspect of the Cisco VNI survey is the Internet of Things, which is going to see exponential growth as industrial and household devices start being connected either directly through the telco networks, across unlicensed radio spectrum or over private Wi-Fi systems.

While Cisco predicts the bulk of that traffic as being generated by smartphones, the company sees connected devices as growing by 45% per year over the next five years with 3.2 billion sensors connected to the internet by the end of the decade.

Notable in the prediction that Low Powered Wide Area (LPWA) networks – non cellular systems mostly operating in the unlicensed spectrum used by Wi-Fi networks – will provide nearly a third of the connections by 2019. At the same time we can expect many M2M deployments to consolidate traffic locally with much of the data processing down locally before the residual information being passed up the network.

As usual the Cisco VNI report underscores, and possibly understates, the growth in mobile data usage we’re going to see over the rest of the decade. For businesses, it’s time to plan for managing both the flow and application that smart devices are going to generate in our daily operations.

For all of us, whether we’re managing big corporates, building hot startups or running a suburban small business, the challenge of safely managing and caring for our customers’ data is going to be one of the biggest tasks facing us in the next few years.



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