802.11 Equals 50 Billion in 2020

Some of you are probably thinking what is Graeme talking about, writing 802.11 equals 50 billion in 2020, yet that’s what Cisco’s Chief Technology Officer predicted recently in London at their Cisco Live international conference timed to their sponsorship of the London Olympics. Specifically she predicted that there will be 50 billion mobile devices online by 2020, up from about 14 billion now, and it’s all down to the adoption of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) standard 802.11. More precisely she cited 802.11r a new one on me. “…Use of the 802.11r standard will allow people to switch between networks in less than 50ms. This could make widespread use of the internet for voice calls a reality on mobile phones.”  And I don’t think she was including vehicles in her estimate, which increasingly come with “telematics,” which does everything from monitor the engine, brakes, batteries, route systems, and keep you connected to the internet.

50 billion devices online by 2020

The number of web-connected devices will grow more than fourfold by 2020, networking giant Cisco has claimed.

The company also said that there will be more than 7 billion mobile devices globally by 2015, and that a greater use of video will mean total internet traffic will more than quadruple by 2014.

Estimates suggest there are currently approximately 14 billion devices connected to the internet. Increasingly, however, ‘machine-to-machine’ communication, rather than mobile phones or laptops, is expected to play a greater role.

Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s Chief Technology Officer, said that she expected home networking speeds to increase twenty-fold over the next decade, and that workers would increasingly bring their own devices, such as phones or laptops, to work. Although this posed security challenges, she said that users were increasingly productive if allowed to use their own technology.

What this means for RMB readers is trying to make an educated guess as to how much of these devices will need some REEs and which REEs. Equally important, where will the REEs come from, China or the rest of the world? My own view on all of this technologic uptake, is that we are consistently underestimating the speed with which the world is changing and with it the amount of REEs that will be needed 2015 onwards. And don’t get me started on Graphene.

This is core to what this blog is all about. Just last week at the Toronto Technology Metals Summit, put together by the great team at the Rare Metal Blog, renowned REE expert Dudley Kingsnorth was predicting that Europium, Dysprosium, Terbium and Yttrium would be in a supply demand deficit as early as 2016. He also pointed out the China’s supply of the heavy REEs was finite, lasting possibly no longer that 8 to 12 years. How long before China stops exporting HREEs conserving them for their future needs?

Down in South Africa at the Investing in African Mining Indaba conference, also last week, Lara Smith Managing Director of Core Consultants, was making pretty much the same point. Using slightly different assumptions, her “5 critical REEs,” Dy, Tb, Eu, Nd, and Y, would be in a deficit of 20,000 tonnes in 2015. 2015 is only 3 years away, not a lot of time when bringing in new REE mines and building separation plants.

While predicting the future is not a science, when two leading experts are warning of shortages ahead, it’s a fair bet that they are likely to be right. At present the world is still struggling to shake off the effects of recent Great Recession. Economic activity is lower than it otherwise ought to be. But at some point ahead, the west will rebound out of its current slowdown. When that happens demand for the REEs could surpass even Mr. Kingsnorth’s and Ms. Smith’s expectations.