Visual Networking Index (VNI)

Cisco Visual Networking Index: 2014–2019 Forecast Q&A

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May 2015

Q.    Why did Cisco develop the Cisco Visual Networking Index (Cisco VNI ) Forecast and methodology?
A.     The ramifications of prior Internet traffic growth rates prompted Cisco to provide a realistic forecast that is based on multiple levels and sources of real data and projections. This data is of great interest to us, but we also expect that our customers (in all segments) and the industry at large can benefit from our findings.
Q.    What is visual networking?
A.     Consumer and business IP networking trends are largely generated by video and by social networking, along with collaboration, such as Web 2.0 technologies. This combination is termed visual networking. A visual networking experience can range from a telepresence meeting to the delivery of video to any device a consumer chooses, such as a TV, PC tablet, or smartphone.
Q.    When did Cisco begin forecasting global IP traffic?
A.     The Cisco VNI began in 2006. In that year the company published its report internally, but also shared the forecast and projections with customers and prospects. Based on the interest in and effects of the initial report, Cisco began releasing these findings publicly in 2007.
Q.    What is the methodology behind the Cisco VNI Forecast?
A.     The forecast relies on analyst projections for Internet users, broadband connections, video subscribers, mobile connections, and Internet application adoption. Our trusted analyst forecasts come from SNL Kagan, Ovum, Ookla, IDC, IHS, Gartner, AMI, Strategy Analytics, Infonetics, Dell’Oro, Synergy, comScore, Nielsen Media Partners Asia, Machina, Verto, and a variety of other sources.

In addition, a number of service providers share network traffic data and trends with Cisco, and this data is used to validate and adjust the usage assumptions underlying the forecast model.

Q.    Have there been any methodological changes since the last forecast update?
A.     There have been no substantial changes to the methodology since the last update.
Q.    Were there any changes to the basic assumptions or key influences on IP traffic used in the latest forecast update?
A.     IPv6 devices and connections are showing a slower, albeit positive, growth due to the revised forecasts from our third-party research vendors and independent data sources, based on the Regional Internet Registry IPv6 allocations. This change has been reflected in our forecast for this forecast period.

Also, while desktops continue to see a decline, there was a stabilization in laptop growth rates for the forecast period as new, lighter form factors were introduced in the market. Conversely, tablets which had previously seen a strong growth showed a reduction in forecast as new laptop form factors and phablets came into the market.

Q.    What’s the difference between IP traffic and Internet traffic?
A.     The Cisco VNI IP traffic forecast encompasses both Internet and managed IP or non-Internet IP traffic. “Internet traffic” includes all IP traffic that crosses an Internet backbone, often traversing networks operated by different service providers and content delivery network providers. “Managed IP traffic” is limited to IP traffic that is managed from origin to destination by a single service provider, crossing only a single network. Managed IP traffic includes the IP transport of consumer video on demand (VoD), as well as corporate IP WAN traffic. Many forecast metrics vary significantly, depending on whether they include managed IP traffic or Internet-only traffic. For example, we project that Wi-Fi traffic will represent 52 percent of total global IP traffic (which includes managed IP) by 2019. Comparatively, we estimate that Wi-Fi traffic will represent 62.8 percent of total global Internet traffic (which excludes managed IP) by 2019. The lower Wi-Fi percentage for overall IP is due to the prevalence of wired devices, such as set-top boxes, that generate IP VoD traffic.
Q.    Have you changed any historic traffic projections in the latest forecast update?
A.     Each year, we use what we believe to be the most accurate data and methodology possible to update the forecast. The following changes have been made since the last forecast:

Volume adjustments were made for the geographies: United States, Canada, Japan, and rest of Asia-Pacific. Volume adjustments apply to both past and future values, preserve growth rates, and do not represent a change in estimates of past growth or expectations of future growth. All four volume adjustments made in this forecast revision were reductions. They were made to improve the accuracy of traffic totals based on the availability of new measurements, such as more comprehensive and granular traffic measures being reported by these countries. The adjustments amounted to 8 percent for the United States, 13 percent for Canada, 20 percent for Japan, and 22 percent for rest of Asia Pacific. Based on these adjustments, historical IP traffic totals for 2013 are lower than reported last year, though 2013 growth remains consistent with previous estimates.

Q.    What is the future outlook for IP traffic growth based on the updated forecast?
A.     In general, there is a slight increase in the global growth rate, compared to previous years’ expectations. Most regions either saw an increase in or a leveling of growth rates. As mobile becomes a significant percentage of total IP traffic (4 percent of global IP traffic in 2014, growing to 14 percent of global IP traffic by 2019), the overall growth rates begin to reflect the higher growth rates of the mobile segment.

By 2019, we will be firmly established in the double zettabyte era (Figure 1). Major findings of the Cisco VNI Global Forecast, 2014–2019, include the following:

   Globally, IP traffic will grow nearly threefold from 2014 to 2019, a CAGR of 23 percent.

   Globally, IP traffic will reach 168 exabytes per month in 2019, the equivalent of transporting 58 million DVDs each hour.

   Globally, IP traffic will reach an annual run rate of 2 zettabytes by the end of 2019, up from an annual run rate of 718.2 exabytes at the end of 2014.

   Asia Pacific will generate the most IP traffic by 2018 (54.4 exabytes per month).

   The Middle East and Africa will be the fastest-growing IP traffic region from 2014 to 2019 (sixfold growth, 44 percent CAGR over the forecast period). Central and Eastern Europe will be the second fastest-growing region (fourfold growth, 33 percent CAGR) in this category.

   By 2019, non-PC devices will account for 67 percent of total IP traffic, demonstrating the effect of web‑enabled TVs, tablets, and smartphones on the way consumers access and use the Internet.

   Mobile data traffic will be over 14 percent of global IP traffic by 2019, growing from 4 percent of global IP traffic in 2014.

Q.    What is an exabyte? What is a zettabyte?
A.     An exabyte is 1,000,000,000 gigabytes. A zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes. Figure 1 shows examples of data that reaches the exabyte and zettabyte scale.
Figure 1.     The Zettabyte Scale


Q.    How accurate is your forecast?
A.     The Cisco VNI forecast has been characterized as conservative by some industry analysts and academicians. In general, the actual growth rate has been within 10 percent of the projected growth rate. In 2010, we projected that the growth rate from 2009 to 2014 would be 34 percent. We now estimate that the actual growth rate for that time frame was 35.6 percent.
Q.    How do you define your major application categories?
A.     The following major application categories and corresponding definitions are used within our Cisco VNI framework.

   File sharing includes peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic from all recognized P2P systems, such as BitTorrent and eDonkey, along with other means of file sharing and one-click file hosting (for example, Rapidshare).

   Internet video to PC includes online video that is downloaded or streamed for viewing on a PC screen. It does not include P2P downloads or Internet delivery of video to a TV screen through a set-top box or equivalent device. Internet video viewed on PCs includes a growing volume of long-form commercial content, such as movies and TV episodes, as well as short-form content such as free user-generated clips.

   Internet video to TV includes video delivered by the Internet to a TV screen, through an Internet-enabled set-top box or equivalent device. Examples of devices and services that deliver this type of content include web-enabled TVs and Blu-ray disc players, Roku boxes, Apple TV, and gaming consoles that allow users to download movies and broadcast television content.

   Web and data include web browsing, email, instant messaging, newsgroups, and file transfer, but they do not include P2P and commercial file transfer such as iTunes. This general category encompasses data transfer (including file transfer using HTTP and FTP) and other Internet applications.

   Video on demand is managed IP transport (traffic that remains within the footprint of a single service provider) generated by traditional commercial TV services, including standard definition (SD), high definition (HD), and three-dimensional (3D) cable and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) VoD.

Q.    Is there a way to customize this forecast for a specific set of variables?
A.     Yes, we have two tools—one for fixed networks (CT-SPAN: and the other for mobile networks (MSPAN:—that can generate customized forecasts based on inputs you specify. These tools use Cisco VNI assumptions for defaults and can take user inputs for a user-customized forecast.
Q.    Does this forecast include signaling traffic?
A.     No, signaling traffic is not included. However, an estimate can be made using the standard rule that IP signaling traffic is approximately 3 percent of bearer traffic.
Q.    Are traffic patterns becoming more symmetric over time?
A.     No, we have observed that, despite the increase in consumer uploading of user-generated content and content providers making longer-form content available online, the amount of downloading still exceeds uploading, and traffic patterns are increasingly asymmetric.
Q.    Does the forecast include both uplink and downlink traffic?
A.     For most services, the figures reflect both downlink and uplink traffic. To avoid double-counting, we excluded uplink P2P, VoIP, instant messaging, and video calling. In other words, we did not include uplink traffic for any application where one person’s upload is another person’s download. Uploads to servers (for example, YouTube) are included, however.
Q.    Cisco VNI appears to be focused on forward-looking data. Is there data showing how Internet traffic has developed historically?
A.     Yes, we have historical data for global and U.S. Internet traffic. Historical Internet traffic includes consumer and business Internet traffic, but it does not include traffic on business IP WANs and private and mobile networks.
Q.    What about satellite video traffic?
A.     Because satellite is similar to broadcast, in that it is a one-to-many service, the exclusion of satellite from the forecast is not expected to make a significant difference. However, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers are now deploying set-top box services that simulate VoD. They send the top 25 programs to the set-top boxes overnight and support on-demand access to less-popular content through the subscriber’s Internet connection. This on‑demand streaming is certain to have an effect on traffic in the future, and it has been factored into the assumptions for Internet video.
Q.    What about digital terrestrial video traffic?
A.     Like satellite, digital terrestrial television (DTT) is a one-to-many service, so the exclusion of DTT is not expected to materially affect the accuracy of the forecast. Also like satellite providers, pay-DTT providers may establish a broadband connection to the home so that they can offer on-demand content, Internet content, and interactive content. This scenario has not been included in this forecast, because the penetration of DTT remains low throughout the forecast period. DTT may be included in future versions of the forecast.
Q.    Can my organization or I use or publish Cisco VNI Forecast data?
A.     Yes. Cisco welcomes and encourages press, analysts, service providers, and other interested industry parties, whether business, regulatory, or academic, to use or publish the data. Cisco VNI projections have been cited in equity and investment research, S-1 registration statements, initial public offering (IPO) and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, and offering memorandums. We have shared our publicly published data with government regulators, press, industry analysts, academic institutions, technical conferences, journals, and other media outlets. We do require that proper Cisco attribution be given for any and all Cisco VNI data that is published or shared in private or public, print and electronic forms (for example, “Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index [or VNI] Global IP Traffic Forecast, 2014–2019”). No further signatures or consent are required to refer to our publicly available white papers, reports, or web-based tools. We are always interested in the context in which our data is used and would appreciate it if parties that use our content would share copies of their completed work containing Cisco VNI insertions. Please send these to
Q.    Can you share the application-level traffic data and country-level data you used to construct the regional traffic figures?
A.     We are not able to share the specific source data that serves as a primary input to our forecast methodology, but we have developed an interactive tool that generates customized Cisco VNI data based on user requirements. The Cisco VNI Forecast Tool is an online resource that is publicly available. You can generate your own Cisco VNI Forecast charts based on segment, region, country, or other parameters. The forecast tool is available at We also have an advanced highlights tool. This tool generates important projections from the IP traffic and mobile data traffic forecast for each region and country covered by the research (refer to
Q.    Where can I ask questions about the Cisco VNI Global IP Traffic Forecast data?
A.     Please send any questions to

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