If all you want to do is surf web pages, download a few songs, send and receive some photographs, or watch streaming video at current picture quality levels, then the bandwidth provided by today’s cable modems and DSL services is probably good enough for you. But the world is moving toward vastly higher bandwidth applications.
Companies like Netflix, Amazon and Wal-Mart are offering feature-length movies for download. More people are looking to upload their own home movies into emails or web pages. Consumer electronics companies are coming out with devices that connect televisions to the Internet. High-definition video is fast becoming the state-of-the-art, and one high definition movie takes up as much bandwidth as 35,000 web pages.
In the meantime, a growing number of companies are offering “software as service” – meaning you subscribe to applications on the net rather than install them on your own computer. These “cloud computing” applications are now available for word processing, emailing, automated remote file backup, and a host of business and personal services. All of these applications – and many others we haven’t even dreamed of yet – are going to require much greater bandwidth than what is generally available today, even from “broadband” providers.
All this adds up to consumer bandwidth demands that are growing at an enormously high rate, and are projected to grow for years to come. According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index, global IP traffic will quadruple from 2009 to 2014. Overall, IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34 percent.
Clearly, the explosion in online video is driving today's increases in bandwidth demand. It would take over two years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks every second in 2014. It would take 72 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks during calendar year 2014.