Cisco says that global IP traffic will reach 1 exabyte (Ebyte) per month this year, and 29Ebyte per month by 2011. By 2012 it could be as high as 200Ebyte per month if the last mile could keep up, but it won't, so it won't!
The last mile has always been the problem, and the cause is that the providers don't believe there is enough demand. Although many engineers understand the virtuous circle linking available rates and demand, their senior managers rarely get it, asserting rather stupidly that there is no proven demand. Of course there isn't, when the available offerings are far too slow to do what people want to do. When rates increase, people magically find that they use the net more and more. This will always be the case, and whatever capacity is provided, it will fill up.
The internet is about personal networking and communication. People want to share their stuff with each other, as evidenced superbly by the fact that there are now over 115 million blogs out there, even though most people still don't know how to set one up. Blogs mostly share text, but many share photos and video. With video cameras moving to more computer-convenient storage formats such as memory cards, we should expect far more video blogs.
If cameras can record HD video, that's what people will want to share. And the cheaper and more compact the cameras are, the more widespread they will be, the more people will use them, and the more content will need to be uploaded, stored, distributed and downloaded. And the more use of HD webcams we will see. And asTVs become more computer friendly, people will want the webcam image to fill the screen, in full HD. And then as video visors start to replace the TV, they will want all that in 3D wraparound chat so they can network with several friends at once.
Meanwhile, video from online services such as Youtube, which already accounts for 4% of all intrenet traffic, is making it onto our big TV screens via the PC connector. HD screens give enough resolution to do other computer stuff, so the convergence will go all the way. We will soon demand the ability to download any HD channel in the world onto our home TV, and can offer the old Sky subcsription as payment, since we won't need that any more if broadband access is fast enough. So at least another £20 a month is available on top of today's broadband rates.
In addition, as crime increases and the cost of equipment falls, we will want more personal CCTV systems, and of course we are all familiar with just how bad the images are from conventional systems, and how it is hard to recognise anyone from the footage we regularly see on TV. With HD cameras, or super HD cameras, recording 24/7 and sending the video to on-line storage, demand will increase dramatically. I might want to record two or three views of the front, and the back of the house. So 5 or 6 streams of super HD video per home might not be unrealistic, and that's just for home security. Black boxes in cars or even our lapel pins might also record video and audio all the time.
So, with high def being standard for all video, and numerous parallel streams coming into and out of the house all the time, internet traffic demand will go throuhg the roof.
But if executives in the providers continue to insist there is no demand and don't put in the capacity, no-one will be able to do any of this and the demand won't materialise, proving the executives right. Self-fulfilling prophecy has always been a key part of the nature of the telecomms industry. If it were led by visionaries, the world would be be a very different place indeed. While it is led by risk-averse accountants, it will continue to develop painfully slowly.