By 2016 mobile phones will outnumber human beings

In just four years' time, there will be nearly one mobile device for every person on the planet - and by 2015, we'll be creating 26 times as much mobile data traffic, according to new research from IT giant Cisco.

The crystal ball gazing comes in the form of Cisco's Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.

The report predicts that by 2015, there will be more than 7.1 billion mobile device in use around the globe - that's nearly one each for every man, woman and child on Earth, with current estimates putting the world's population at 7.2 billion by the same time.

With all those handsets, netbooks, tablets and other mobile devices in circulation, Cisco expects worldwide mobile traffic to reach a whopping 6.3 exabytes - that's 26 billion gigabytes - every month by 2015.

The average speed of mobile internet connections is set to rise from an average of 215 kilobits per second in 2010, to more than 2.2 megabits per second in 2015. And two-thirds of it, according to Cisco, will be video.

That's a lot of YouTube clips of skateboarding bulldogs.

All of which will means you'd better hope that mobile operators such as T-Mobile increase the measly data allowances on their monthly plans by 2015, as the average smartphone is estimated to send 1.3 gigabytes a month by then.

And by 2015, there'll be 788 million people around the world who only access the internet using their mobile.

The report also predicts the continuing march of the tablet computer across the IT landscape, with internet-connected tablets generating more traffic in 2015 as the entire global mobile network did during 2010 (which was 242 petabytes a month, fact fans!)

THINQ's own predictions for the next four years are a little less ambitious. By 2015, we expect to have put on a few more pounds around the middle, lost a little more hair - but hell, if we're pushing the boat out, we may even have got the hang of predictive text messaging by then, too.