Key Takeaways from Cisco’s Annual Internet Report

Cisco's report on internet use says businesses need to be ready for the massive wave of devices and need for bandwidth that are coming in the next five years.

IoT | Internet of Things  >  A web of connected devices.
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By 2023, two-thirds of the world’s population will have Internet access—that’s 5.3 billion total Internet users, compared to 3.9 billion in 2018. The number of devices and connections will also skyrocket. There will be 3.6 networked devices per capita by 2023, whereas in 2018, there were 2.4 networked devices per capita.

These findings come from Cisco’s Annual Internet Report (2018 – 2023) (AIR) - previously known as Visual Network Index (VNI), which assesses the digital transformation across different business segments and their adoption of networking technologies, including fixed broadband, Wi-Fi, and mobile (3G, 4G, 5G). 

The report described an increased demand for new or enhanced applications that boost workforce productivity or improve customer experiences. In today’s mobile world, users expect their devices (and networks) to deliver on all fronts: quality, ease of use, and seamless connectivity. 

cisco growth in internet users chart Cisco

The report can be useful as companies plan out their network strategies. One of the aspects of the VNI that Cisco carried over to AIR is an online tool that lets people slice and dice the information by country, device or other factors. They also included an “Internet readiness” tool that explores how prepared different regions are for the coming wave of devices and need for bandwidth. 

More network automation is needed

To meet growing demand for enhanced apps, enterprises need automated network monitoring and optimization, andt that can be achieved with software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). Software-driven networks create more flexible infrastructures that can adapt to changing traffic requirements, which becomes necessary as more enterprises move to hybrid clouds, the report says.

Policy-based automation and Intent-Based Networking (IBN) are just as important when it comes to building agile, portable, and scalable networks. IBN, as the name implies, captures business intent through analytics and machine learning. One trend Cisco observed in its report is how business WAN traffic flow patterns are becoming more software-based and hybrid in nature, creating a need for IBN solutions, the report says.

SD-WAN is core to network success

SD-WAN is important to the network edge, which brings computing, storage, and networking resources closer to users and devices. Cisco found many use cases driving the need for greater edge-computing capabilities. One of them is finding ways to control data from the billions of Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints being added to the network edge.

Out of the 29.3 billion networked devices in use by 2023, about half will support various IoT applications, per Cisco’s report. As for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, there will be 14.7 billion connections by 2023. Consumers will hold the biggest share (74%) of total devices and connections, with businesses claiming approximately 26%. However, the consumer share will grow at a slower rate than business.

How will enterprises manage to secure all networked devices and data? Cisco recommends creating a security policy that strikes a balance between data protection and ease of use. In other words, networks will have to be intelligent enough to grant access to the right users without putting them through a difficult authentication process.

Network managers still struggle to lower operational costs

Network managers continue to struggle with rising operational costs, as the explosion of devices and data outpaces IT resources. Cisco found nearly 95% of network changes are still performed manually, resulting in operational costs that outweigh network costs. That’s where IT automation can help, enabled by SDN, intelligent network-edge enhancements, and unified domain controls.

In addition to exploring business-specific networking needs, Cisco outlined some trends in consumer and small-to-medium business (SMB) markets. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Next-generation applications—built with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning—will create complex requirements and new business models. Mobile applications, specifically, will drive future consumer, SMB, and enterprise needs, with 299.1 billion mobile apps downloaded worldwide by 2023.
  • Mixed devices and connections are enabling myriad M2M apps. Connected-home, video-surveillance, connected appliances, and tracking apps will make up 48% of M2M connections by 2023. Connected-car apps will be the fastest-growing category, with connected cities coming in second.
  • Accelerating broadband speeds will affect traffic growth and use of high-bandwidth content and applications. Average broadband speeds will more than double globally from 45.9 Mbps (in 2018) to 110.4 Mbps (in 2023). Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), high-speed DSL, and cable broadband adoption will contribute to the growth.
  • Wi-Fi will gain momentum as devices and IoT connections increase. By 2023, the number of public Wi-Fi hotspots will grow to 628 million, up from 169 million in 2018. Wi-Fi 6 promises to boost speeds by up to 30%, compared to the current generation. More importantly, next-gen Wi-Fi will significantly improve real-time communications and high-definition video, impacting both consumer and business sectors.
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