In 5 Years, Half of All Earthlings Will Be on the Internet

by Brian Fung

If you live in the United States and don’t have Internet yet, chances are you aren’t getting it anytime soon. It costs a tremendous amount of money to build out infrastructure to places that aren’t already being served; there often isn’t enough demand to make those investments worth it.

Unless, that is, you’re talking about the developing world. A new report from Cisco today finds that by 2017, 3.6 billion people will be hooked up to the Internet. The vast majority of that growth will come from—yep—Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where connectivity is advancing at double-digit rates.

Five years from now, 413 million people in the Middle East and Africa will be online, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 15.3 percent. Asia’s connected population will grow by 11.6 percent a year, to just under 2 billion.

Here are some of the study’s other findings.

Broadband Is About to Get Faster

With the spread of gigabit connections like the kind Google Fiber and others are rolling out, average speeds in the United States are going to triple, topping out at 38 megabits per second (up from 13 Mbps today).

The Internet of Things Is Going to Take Off

For every person living in the United States, there will be eight devices or connections among them. That includes a growing category of Internet traffic known as machine-to-machine (M2M), or what happens when your phone is connected to your fridge which is connected to your thermostat. Thirty-one percent of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be made up of M2M communications.

‘House of Cards’ Is Just the Start

You think we like to binge-watch TV now? That’s nothing. Last year, Web video accounted for a little over a third of all Internet traffic worldwide. In five years, that figure will be 52 percent.

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Wi-Fi Router

Here’s a dirty little secret: In order to serve you stuff on the Web faster, your cell phone often jumps from its data connection to Wi-Fi. That’s called Wi-Fi offloading—kind of like an escape hatch for data. Mobile carriers say it’s vital to keeping their services uncongested, and the future has them leaning on it more and more.

“Sixty-two percent of all Internet traffic will traverse Wi-Fi,” said Jeff Campbell, a VP at Cisco.

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