(Reuters) - Network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc said Internet Protocol traffic is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 29 percent in the next four years mainly due to strong demand for video and the prevalence of devices such as smartphones, tablets and chips that monitor energy consumption.
By 2016, annual global IP traffic is forecast to be 1.3 zettabytes - units of information - or 38 million DVDs per hour, Cisco said in its annual visual networking index forecast published on Wednesday that predicts growth from 2011 to 2016.
By comparison the traffic generated from 1984 to 2012 so far is 1.2 zettabytes, so the Internet traffic predicted for 2016 will be larger than for prior years combined, said Thomas Barnett, senior manager of Cisco's global service provider marketing group.
That is equivalent to 110 exabytes per month by 2016, up from about 31 exabytes per month in 2011, Cisco said.
Overall, IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to the study.
Globally, video will account for 54 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2016, up from 51 percent in 2011, Cisco said, adding that business conferencing is expected to grow at an annual rate of 48 percent from 2011 to 2016.
It would take over 6 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2016, meaning that every second, 1.2 million minutes of video content will cross the network, Cisco said.
At the same time, the number of devices connected to IP networks is expected to reach 19 billion - nearly triple the global population in 2016, the study found.
IP traffic growth spells good news for Cisco, whose bread-and-butter business is routers and switches that manage Internet traffic.
(Reporting By Nicola Leske; Editing by Richard Chang)