By Business editor Peter Ryan
A leading technology firm forecasts that the need for internet speed will increase at a mind-boggling pace over the next three years.
"Our report is showing that in the year 2017, in four years time, the internet and IP traffic will be three times larger than it is today," forecast Ken Boal, Cisco's managing director for Australia and New Zealand.
Listen to the interview with Ken Boal broadcast on this morning's AM.
"If you summed all of the traffic on the internet from 1984 through to the end of last year, 2012, the traffic in 2017 will actually surpass that in one year alone, so huge growth across the world and it is going to be very large in Australia as well. We'll still be twice as large as what it is in Australia today - so huge growth."
Cisco is expecting 1.4 zettabytes of internet traffic by 2017 and, for those who have never heard of a zettabyte, it is an enormous amount of data.
"A zettabyte is the equivalent of a trillion gigabytes. It's a very, very large number with a lot of zeros - 21 zeros - but what that means in reality is if you digitised all of the movies ever made, that could cross the internet every four minutes around the world. So it's an awful lot of data and huge volumes," Mr Boal explained.
"Obviously it's going to have implications for government, business and everyone concerned with the internet."
Cisco's report forecasts that much of the growth will not come from direct human usage, but from automated business processes that are increasingly using the internet.
"It's predominately been, historically, PCs and computers, phones and those things," Mr Boal observed.
"Now we're seeing the rise of the machines - video surveillance cameras, digital health monitors, asset tracking for business, public transport vehicles and cars will also be connected, so in Australia that will sum to about 145 million devices. So considering we'll have roughly 23, 24 million people, that's a lot of extra devices per every user connected."
Outside increasing business use of the internet, Ken Boal says households are increasing accessing their entertainment via the web.
"Three-quarters of the traffic will be video, and we're connecting things like TVs, so high definition TVs, internet video will be absolutely a huge contributor to the growth," he said.
"11 per cent of the internet use in Australia in 2017 will be through internet connected TVs, and that's got new opportunities for providers, content players and so on."
Mr Boal says the increase in internet usage will necessitate a massive increase in access speeds.
"If we look at the global trends, the average worldwide speed will be 39 megabits per second for broadband residential access in 2017. At the moment Australia is around about 9 megabits per second on average, so clearly there's a significant platform upgrade required," he said.
"You know, we're agnostic on the access technology but clearly significant increase in capacity is required and that's what this report is highlighting."