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Mobile Video

AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2012 -- Let Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) FaceTime with Android; let Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) video chat with BlackBerry.

That was the overriding message of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega, as he took the stage this morning at the opening keynote of the massive mobile show here in Spain. Mobile video will increasingly be the lifeblood of operators, device vendors and application providers in years to come, but it's not being made easy for users to talk to their friends on different devices and services at the moment.

"We've made it too difficult for customers to place a video call from one device to another," de la Vega told the crowd.

Indeed, video services are a veritable mobile Babel at present with major players that deliver services over the top (OTT) of mobile networks, such as Apple FaceTime and Skype not talking to each other. FaceTime, for example, only communicates with other Apple devices. Currently it is down to the mobile user to find third-party applications like Qik Inc. and Tango that work cross-platform. (See Microsoft Fills Hole in Skype.)

Mobile carriers are looking at the prospect of nearly two-thirds of all their traffic being video communications by 2016, de la Vega noted. There was a palpable tension at this morning's keynote session arising from the suspicion in some quarters that OTT players are piggy-backing on the big investments made by the carriers to deliver video services that serve their own bottom lines.

Everyone, de la Vega argued, must work together to make video easier for the end user. In order to "keep fueling" the growth cycle for the entire mobile industry.

This will also involve making video more efficient on mobile networks. De la Vega called for improvements to the way videos are encoded (codecs) so that they compress and stream easier across a mobile network.

There is also one big thing that carriers can do to help mend fractured ecosystems and make life better for the average mobile subscriber:

"We have to embrace developers ... there are ways to make it easier," de la Vega said.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:41:22 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

I've seen Ralph speak numerous times now. I don't think I've ever seen him quite as animated as on the topic of mobile video/fueling the cycle.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:41:21 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

I suspect they're coming round to a more standards-based approach now because the OTT players are eating into revenues that the carriers see as potentially theirs. I doubt AT&T ever held Apple or any other vendor to video standards because they weren't far-sighted enough to see the video future.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:41:21 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

There has been a standard for video calls for over 6 years now.  The carriers have let the manufacturers get away with not supporting the existing one and creating their own.  AT&T could have forced Apple to support he standard, they did not.  All it takes is putting the requirement out there and when Apple submits a new model for testing, you fail it.


 


The AT&T network doesn't even support/allow the video calling standard.  So while blaming the manufacturers doesn't help when the network is also to blame.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:41:20 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

Well, the horse is well and truly out of the gate by now, but all the big carrier cheeses on stage were talking about OTT today, too late for a proper standard now?

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:41:20 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

They weren't and that is obvious by not supporting the standard set forth by GSM.  First commercial handset was available in 2006.


 


Maybe they haven't figured out how to bill it?  Would the video call count towards the tiered data plans, would it be the same as a voice call or something different?  I could see issues going between carriers, but not to implement it at all, different story.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:41:19 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

Yes and no.  OTT has no QoS, the video calling standard does; just like a voice call.  All it would be is taking the existing API's in the OS and letting the apps initiate the call.  This would require the use of phone numbers rather than just an ID though.  The individual services could handle the translation; you would just need to provide them your phone number.  So it can be done, but the reason why it won't, Apple likes to be in control.  They want everything closed, so maybe the rest of the industry should get together and lock Apple out entirely.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:41:16 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

AT&T posted a snippet of de la Vega on site in Barcelona but I can't find a video of the speech proper anywhere:


 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...


 


Glad you liked the piece.


Dan

scottwhaton 12/5/2012 | 5:41:16 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

It doesn't take a crystal ball to understand that if the mobile operators let video conferencing slip away, they also let voice (as a subset) slip away too.  And that would be a shame as the mobile operators still have some formidible advantages vs. the OTT players including providing QoS, an easy to dial address (a phone number) and the abiity to supply an interoperable service between the different video islands.  


 


Glad to hear AT&T not only become a proponent of this message but get to the front of the line.  


 


Scott Wharton


CEO


Vidtel, Inc.

scottwhaton 12/5/2012 | 5:41:16 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

Dan,


 


Thanks for the informative post.  Was there a video of the speech that those of us not fortunately enough to be in Barcelona can watch?


 


Scott

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:41:12 PM
re: AT&T Boss Calls for End to Mobile-Video Babel

Cisco wants to have the network (i.e. Videoscape) become the mobile-video babelfish.


That would solve the problem, right? Maybe they just haven't had a chance to tell AT&T about it yet.  :)  Or... maybe this is a sign AT&T doesn't want to be that beholden to any one vendor...

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