The traffic increase will be driven by the rapid expansion of Internet-enabled devices, users, and higher broadband speeds.
Internet traffic is poised to quadruple in four years thanks to the proliferation of Internet-connected devices, users, and faster networks, according to a study conducted by Cisco Systems.
By 2016, the Internet will reach 1.3 zettabytes of traffic -- a zettabyte being the equivalent of a trillion gigabytes, or every movie ever made crossing the network every three minutes. In 2016, Cisco said, more traffic will travel across the network than in all prior "Internet years" combined.
The study underscores society's growing dependence on the Internet and the need for a persistent connection. Beyond an increase in the number of devices connected, more people will have access than ever before, while network speeds will nearly quadruple.
By 2016, Cisco projects 18.9 billion network connections, or 2.5 connections for each person in the world. In developed countries, individuals already own multiple connected devices, such as phones, computers, and tablets. The carriers are pushing to connect even more devices, including home-security products, refrigerators, and dog collars.
At that time, Cisco also projects 3.4 billion Internet users, or roughly 45 percent of the projected population.
Video continues to be the major bandwidth hog. By 2016, 1.2 million video minutes, or roughly 833 days of video, will travel the Internet every second, Cisco said. More bandwidth intensive video such as 3DTV and high-definition feeds will also increase traffic.
Wi-Fi will also play a bigger part, with more than half of the world's Internet traffic coming from a Wi-Fi source.
Cisco has a vested interest in Internet traffic increasing since it makes the network connections, routers, and switches that enable data to move across the world. More traffic means more business for the company.