The quantity of information transmitted over the Internet will continue to double each year over the next five years, according to research released Wednesday by analyst firm IDC.

In 2002, the traffic volume was 180 petabits per day (one petabit = 1 million gigabits). This will increase to 5,175 petabits per day by 2007, according to IDC.

The main driver will be a move to broadband access by current users rather than growth in subscribers to the Internet. Broadband adoption by consumers will be the largest and fastest-growing sector of the Internet traffic market by 2007, the analysts claimed.

Consumers will account for 60 per cent of all Internet traffic compared to 40 per cent for business users in 2007. Mobile Internet users will have a minimal effect on traffic volumes, IDC said.

The strong growth pattern has interesting implications for the telecommunications industry as a whole and for telecommunications equipment suppliers in particular, according to IDC.

First, the current malaise in the telecommunications market cannot be attributed to slowing growth of Internet traffic, as some industry observers have suggested.

Second, as traffic continues to grow strongly, carriers will be looking to buy next-generation optical equipment which is faster and more efficient than that based on today's SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) technology.

This may include the Optical Transport Networks (OTN) standard which has been adopted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). OTN aims to increase network bandwidth, reducing the need to convert optical signals into electrical signals.