Recently the Citrix Labs team had a discussion on the proposed FCC rules on net neutrality, specifically looking at some of the potential impacts these rule changes could have on mobile workers.

Trends such as work from home and BYOD have provided tremendous flexibility to employees to balance their professional and private lives, but at the same time those trends have enabled those employees to be ravenous consumers of content and internet bandwidth, potentially putting them in the crosshairs of the proposed FCC rule changes.

While I’m not planning on revisiting the debate behind the proposed rule changes here (I’m sure that debate will go on for a while), I did want to take a look at some of the drivers behind the debate- how did we get here? A lot of that has to do with the consumption of content, and how things like smarter devices (e.g. Smartphones and Tablets) and changing work habits (e.g. BYOD) directly relate to the rapid growth in internet bandwidth consumption. And a really good look into these consumption patterns is the annual Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update. This is a vast study with plenty of data and forecasts covering how Internet content is and will be consumed over the next few years, and it is definitely easy to conclude that mobile users and mobile devices are having a very large impact on the amount of internet bandwidth consumed . Here is just a sampling of some of the data the 2014 version had to share:

 Traffic Growth:

 In 2016, global IP traffic will reach 1.1 zettabytes (1000 exabytes) per year, or 91.3 exabytes (one billion gigabytes) per month. Overall, IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21% from 2013 to 2018.

  • In 2013, only 33 percent of total IP traffic originated with non-PC devices, but by 2018 the non-PC share of total IP traffic will grow to 57 percent.
  • Looking at mobile data specifically, global mobile data traffic crew 81 percent in 2013. Global mobile data traffic reached 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013, up from 820 petabytes per month at the end of 2012. Mobile data traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 61% from 2013 to 2018.

 Impact of Video:

  • Globally, IP video traffic will be 79 percent of all IP traffic (both business and consumer) by 2018, up from 66 percent in 2013
  • It would take an individual more than 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2018.
  • Mobile video traffic exceeded 50% of mobile data traffic for the first time in 2012. Mobile video traffic was 53 percent of traffic by the end of 2013.

 Business Traffic Growth:

  • Business IP traffic will grow at a CAGR of 18% from 2013 to 2018
  • From 2013 to 2018, the fastest-growing business service is expected to be desktop or personal videoconferencing.

 Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index Global IP Traffic Forecast and Service Adoption, 2013-2018.

This is just a small glimpse of the data Cisco made available this year. What it does reinforce is the pressure service providers (fixed line and mobile data) are facing. One trend mentioned several times throughout the reports is that as service providers add capacity and improved bandwidth speeds, users respond by consuming even more content as smarter devices and smarter users take advantage of the better user experience to consume content. While the report doesn’t mention this specifically, I do believe that the mobilization of the workforce is a big driver for rapid growth in Internet traffic as things like ‘Work-from-home’ and ‘Bring-Your-Own-Device’ encourages mobile workers to own more content consumption devices as well as consume video and cloud services for both personal and professional reasons. As such, the growth of Internet traffic and mobile data is something that will directly impact Citrix as a provider of Mobile Workspaces, and something the Citrix Labs Team will be paying close attention to as we try to balance the collaboration and data consumption requirements of mobile workers with corresponding bandwidth consumption pressures.

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