(Source: Orion Pictures)
Cisco says man will soon be outnumbered by his digital creations

For fans of the Terminator science fiction franchise or Ray Kurzweil's less-menacing, but equally outlandish theory of a coming "singularity" convergence of mankind and machines into a single super-being, you'll be sure to enjoy the latest juicy tidbit from Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO).

I. Rise of the Machines

Cisco unveiled a new study on Tuesday, which predicted that between 2011 and 2016 mobile device usage will grow at a compounding 78 percent annual rate, meaning that within four years mobile devices will outnumber the humanoids.  

The United Nations predicts that the world population will hit 7.3 billion in 2016.  Cisco predicts boldly that the mobile device population will be 10 billion by then.  It also predicts that the devices will be sucking down an average of 10.8 exabytes of data per month (enough data to fill 33 billion DVDs or fill 813 quadrillion text messages).

Cisco data predictions
[Image Source: Cisco]

(1 exabyte= 1,000 petabytes = 1,000,000 terabytes = 1,000,000,000 gigabytes)

A predicted consumption of 130 exabytes of data per year may seem unbelievable, but Cisco's numbers are quite plausible.  An EMC Corp. (EMC) sponsored study [PDF] estimated that 988 exabytes of data were created in 2010.  Likewise a separate study by Cisco found that current internet traffic totals 21 exabytes per month in 20.  (Global internet traffic first topped 1 exabyte per month in 2004.)

People on phones
Increasingly "intelligent" internet-connected gadgets will soon outnumber humans, says Cisco.
[Image Source: Mashable]

Likewise people increasingly own both a tablet and a smartphone, or a smartphone and a Wi-Fi capable MP3 player.

For the robot fearing crowd, you won't like this part of Cisco's latest study -- it estimates that 2 billion of the connections made in 2016 will be machine to machine communications.  Examples would include an infotainment-equipped vehicle "talking" to the cloud, smart-grid meters reporting live usage statistics, and real-time vehicle fleet-monitoring.

II. Cisco Says Spectrum Auction is Crucial to Ongoing Growth

But the swelling growth of the mobile sector may be stifled if there's not enough spectrum to quench the ever-increasing thirst for data says, Mary Brown, director of government affairs for Cisco.  She hopes the study acts as a catalyst to encourage Congress to act and authorize future spectrum auctions by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the federal agency tasked with regulating wireless communications in the U.S.

The idea advocated by many in the industry is to allow television broadcasters the ability to resell their purchased spectrum in a special auction.  The FCC would act as the auctioneer, keeping a cut of the proceeds for the federal government.  Despite the fact that many spectrum holders are pushing hard for the auction, which would bring them valuable cash, others are trying to block their peers from being able to engage in commerce, claiming that the sales could cause unwelcome interference with their holdings.  

Cisco, however, is on the side of the spectrum deployers as it would see a boost in the sales of routers, switches, and other components.  These components would be used to build the data backbones of the mobile networks built to utilize the new spectrum. 

Despite the fact that the election would generate a positive cash flow for the government, escalating partisan rancor in Washington, D.C. during a presidential election year has threatened to sink the idea.  

The Congressional Republicans find themselves in the uncharacteristic roles of both opposing the payroll tax cuts and playing obstructionists to the spectrum auction auction -- an idea that has heavy support from the corporate communications and electronics industries.

Payroll tax cut
Cisco is pushing for a spectrum auction.  Democrats hope to push the auction and the payroll tax cut -- two ideas opposed by Congressional Republicans -- by bundling them together, a proposal their adversaries strangely seem to find more palatable. [Image Source: CNBC]

But Ms. Brown and others hope that an eleventh hour proposal to use the spectrum auction proceeds to help pay for the payroll tax cuts will lure enough Republicans over the fence to approve the auction.

She states in a Reuters interview, "We are going to start to see quality-of-service issues arising in major metropolitan areas if we don't act to add more spectrum to these mobile networks."

III. Cisco Presents Report in Cute Video Form

For those in the mood to view the report in data-light form, you can view Cisco's Valentine's Day themed video explaining some of its ideas:

Sources: Cisco, Reuters

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