Zettabyte flood predicted for 2015


George Gilder has been a big-picture thinker about the Telecosm for a long time--he was the guy who long ago predicted there would be a wired device in every home for television and everything else would be be wireless. His mate at the Discovery Center, Bret Swanson caused waves last year when he wrote about the rising surge of bandwidth demands he described as an "exaflood." Now, the two have teamed up to predict there will be a "zettaflood" of bytes in U.S. Internet traffic by 2015. For those who flunked math, that is one million million billion bytes of data, or roughly equivalent to 50 million Libraries of Congress.

In a long but readable article, Gilder and Swanson neatly summarizes the rising demand into three phases--early pre-browser Internet, the transition into the home and business through modems and the world wide web, and the next stage of fiber optic networks fed by bit-hungry applications such as video, massive social inter-connectivity, supported by super-high-speed graphic processors.

Estimating how much bandwidth this consumes requires large brush strokes, but driving the zettabyte 2015 prediction--50 times the Internet of 2006--is the take up of a wide variety of rich video and media applications. You Tube, multi-player gaming and P2P video sharing has given us an insight to early demand for video. But coming post-2010 is the much-awaited video telephone the paper predicts will consume 400 exabytes of data in its own right. To put that in context, Cisco predicts U.S. traffic will this year be around 50 exabytes.

When everyone has Dick Tracy-like phones I don't know, but we are already on the cusp of the next big thing, which is Internet to the TV. Internet fueled TV is going to drive demand for bandwidth sharply over the next few years, with Gilder and Swanson citing Cisco predictions that bandwidth demands will quadruple over the next four years.

In global terms we hit the zettabyte in about 2012 and maybe earlier. Asian countries like Korea have demonstrated that if you build the network it will be used (Korea with an economy 1/15th that of the U.S. has similar Internet traffic demand to the U.S!). And this is where Gilder and Swanson get to in their conclusions about what is needed: "Korea's booming Internet traffic suggests that building the infrastructure first is the key to a robust digital economy. Time and time again, we see that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs find both serious applications and also whimsical ways to fill the pipes. None of the enticing Exaflood trends above can be achieved without a new network."

The price--around $100 billion in investment for the U.S. over the next five years--or two thirds of the price of the tax rebate stimulus package now going through Congress.

For more:
- Estimating the Exaflood Report and Release

Related articles:
Video challenges the Internet industry Report 
So many streamers, so little bandwidth Report