Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers predicted that the cost of transporting mobile data will follow a path similar to mobile voice: As networks become more efficient, the cost of transmitting mobile data will fall.
"Price points are going to come down rapidly," Chambers said during an interview at AllThingsD's D11 conference, according to AllThingsD. "Transport will become free. … Architectures will change. With intelligence throughout the network, the network will become the platform of the future."
Chambers was responding to a question about whether cellular data networks will be able to handle the rising data demands of an increasingly mobile and smartphone-toting population. Chambers said improvements in the designs of wireless networks will allow operators to slowly bring down the cost of mobile data services, as they have been able to do with voice calling.
Not surprisingly, Cisco is working to sell a range of products to mobile operators that the vendor believes will help reduce the cost of launching and maintaining a network. The actions stem partly from Cisco's acquisition of the likes of Intucell, BroadHop, ThinkSmart and Meraki. Cisco is working to cobble those companies together with its own products in a bid to challenge mobile equipment market leaders like Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU).
For example, during his D11 appearance, Chambers discussed Cisco's "service provider Wi-Fi" products that he said use unlicensed spectrum to offload data. Wi-Fi, Chambers predicted, will eventually carry 80 to 90 percent of the growth of cellular networks.
Chambers' comments come on the heels of Cisco's release of its new Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast for 2012 to 2017. Cisco's VNI is the vendor's widely cited traffic monitoring report, and in the company's newest forecast Cisco predicts global Internet protocol (IP) traffic will grow three-fold between 2012 and 2017, to an annual run rate of 1.4 zettabytes--more than a trillion gigabytes per year--by 2017.
In its new VNI forecast, Cisco said that in 2012 around 26 percent of Internet traffic originated with non-PC devices, but by 2017 the non-PC share of Internet traffic will grow to 49 percent. During that period, smartphone traffic will grow by 79 percent, and tablet traffic will grow by 104 percent.
Finally, Cisco said that, globally, there were 3.8 billion mobile consumers in 2012, a number that will grow by 4.1 percent to 4.6 billion by 2017.