Video viewing will account for over 80% of total internet protocol traffic in 2021, up from 67% in in 2016. Total online video viewing will amount to about a million minutes every second, or three trillion minutes a month. The forecasts are from the Cisco Visual Networking Index. So how accurate are they? We look back at previous projections to see how they turned out.

Cisco forecasts that in 2021 there will be nearly 1.9 billion online video users globally, excluding those only on mobile networks, up from 1.4 billion in 2016. Total internet users will rise from 3.3 billion to 4.6 billion, or 58% of the projected global population.

Consumer video-on-demand traffic will nearly double by 2021, when it will be equivalent to 7.2 billion DVDs per month.

Live Internet video will grow 15-fold and account for 13% of internet video traffic by 2021.

Internet video to TV grew 50% in 2016. Internet video to television screens will continue to grow at a rapid pace, increasing 3.6-fold by 2021. Internet video-to-television traffic will be 26% of consumer internet video traffic by 2021, up from 24% in 2016.

In the United States, internet video traffic will grow 3-fold from 2016 to 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 25%. Interestingly, Ultra HD is forecast to account for nearly 30% of internet video traffic in 2021. The average internet household will generate, or generally receive, over 460 Gigabytes of internet traffic a month.

In the United Kingdom, internet video traffic will grow at a similar rate and Ultra HD is forecast to account for approaching 20% of that, with the average household generating over 300 Gigabytes of traffic.

Cisco has provided such annual forecasts for twelve years. Looking back to our coverage in 2013, Cisco forecast that traffic would grow three-fold by 2017, with 2 billion online video users, up from a billion in 2012. Cisco forecast that nearly 70% of all consumer internet traffic would be video, which turned out to be broadly correct. However, it forecast that 60% of online video would be in high definition in 2017, although it seems the figure actually reached 36%.

So, while these forecasts may not turn out to be entirely accurate, they provide a reasonably reliable indication of the direction of travel.

One reason, it must be remembered, that video so dominates internet traffic is because it requires so much capacity compared to other forms of communication. Equally, Ultra HD requires significantly more capacity than high definition or standard definition video, so it will have an even greater impact on traffic.

The Cisco VNI Complete Forecast for 2016 to 2021 is available from the Cisco web site.