There are a number of different predictions floating around about how many Internet-connected devices there will be worldwide within the next few years. But regardless of those numbers, we can all be sure that mobile Internet data traffic is going to explode exponentially as well.
Cisco Systems has chimed in with its latest predictions through 2017 in regard to mobile data traffic -- and the forecasts don't hold back.
According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index report covering 2012 through 2017, the networking giant is predicting that global mobile data traffic will jump 13 times, to a rate of 11.2 exabytes consumed globally per month at an annual run rate of 134 exabytes.
To put this in perspective, the monthly rate for 2012 was 0.9 exabytes of mobile data traffic.
Doug Webster, vice president of Service Provider Networking Marketing at Cisco, explained further in prepared remarks that this projection equals "more than 46 times the total amount of mobile IP traffic just a few years ago in 2010."
With such dramatic adoption, we are rapidly approaching the time when nearly every network experience will be a mobile one and, more often than not, a visual one as well. This trend is a result of the seemingly insatiable demand by consumers and businesses alike to achieve the benefits gained when connecting people, data, and things in an Internet of Everything.
Cisco expects that from now through 2017, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets (but also laptops) will account for the overwhelming bulk of this traffic.
One point also worth highlighting is that it appears researchers are forecasting mobile data traffic to increase sharply because of more devices online -- not users.
By 2017, Cisco is predicting there will be 5.2 billion mobile users -- up from 4.3 billion in 2012. But they also predicted that there will be more than 10 billion connected devices (including more than 1.7 billion M2M connections) within four years -- up from 7 billion total in 2012.
However, there are expected to be some major changes in demographics as well -- especially in emerging markets. -- which could provide new business opportunities for everyone from mobile OEMs to service providers.
Specifically, researchers predicted that we'll see the highest growth rate for mobile data traffic in the Middle East and Africa, with a 17.3-fold increase. But the Asia-Pacific region is expected to dominate with the most mobile traffic overall, accumulating 5.3 exabytes per month by 2017.
For a look at more predictions from Cisco's Visual Networking Index, check out the promo clip below:
This story originally appeared on ZDNet under the headline "Cisco: Mobile Internet data traffic to grow 13-fold by 2017."