Increased penetration of network services and growth in data services could help to dramatically increase the percentage of the world's population with an online presence, according to Cisco.
The company said in its Visual Networking Index (VNI) report that by 2017 some 48 percent of the world's estimated population will be active online. Currently, an estimated 2.3 billion people, or 32 percent of the world's population, are active online.
The report forecasts that by 2017 as many as 3.6 billion people will be online, causing global traffic rates to soar from 523 petabytes in 2012 to some 1.4 zettabytes in 2017. The total number of devices available online is set to jump from 12 billion to 19 billion, while average broadband speeds will leap from 11.3Mbps to 39Mbps.
Much of the expected growth is set to arise from streaming video services. Cisco predicts that by 2017 some two billion people will be using online video services to generate as much as three trillion minutes of video every month.
Mobile devices are also expected to see a major increase in the coming years. Cisco estimates that by 2017 non-PC hardware will account for 49 percent of IP traffic. While smartphones and tablets will lead that charge, Cisco also noted that smart-TVs and IP-enabled appliances will also contribute to the growth.
The growth of mobile devices and internet access in developing regions has long been seen by network operators and service providers as both a prime opportunity and a unique challenge. Earlier this year, Ericsson chief Hans Vestberg suggested that developing regions could help to keep legacy platforms and network protocols alive over the short term.
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