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Cisco Predicts Wireless Data Explosion

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If wireless operators thought they'd faced a deluge of data traffic from the iPhone, they haven't seen anything yet, according to a survey from network equipment giant Cisco Systems.

Cisco, which makes the routers and switches that shuttle IP traffic around the Internet, has been using its Visual Networking Index to forecast Internet usage. On Tuesday, the company announced results from its Global Mobile Data Forecast for 2009 to 2014.

By 2014, researchers predict, mobile data traffic throughout the world will reach 3.6 exabytes per month, or an annual run rate of 40 exabytes. This is a 39-fold increase from 2009 to 2014, or a compound annual growth rate of 108 percent.

Researchers believe that the amount of data traffic traversing the mobile network by 2014 will be equal about 1 billion DVDs. By comparison that is about the equivalent of 133 times all the data that has ever been transmitted across a mobile network since networks first were launched in the 1980s until today.

Today, the average mobile broadband connection generates 1.3GB of traffic per month. This is equivalent to about 650 MP3 music files. By 2014, the average mobile broadband connection will generate 7GB of traffic per month, which is equivalent to about 3,500 MP3 music files, Cisco said. The rate at which data traffic is growing today is about 2.4 times faster than fixed broadband data traffic around the world.

What's driving all this growth? One major driver is the increase in devices that offer mobile data capabilities. Apple's iPhone, which was introduced in 2007, accelerated growth trends for mobile data. But in the next few years, there will be a whole slew of related devices that will hit the market, including dozens that will be powered by Google's Android operating system.

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