Mediocrity Rules Mobile Video
All the carriers have seen Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)’s report on video’s exponential growth, but that’s all they know, according to Chris Koopmans, Bytemobile’s vice president of product development. Cisco's report on bytes confirms there’s a video onslaught, but doesn’t speak to the user experience, defined by resolution and stalling -- the time spent buffering in a video that indicates the network’s ability to keep up. (See Cisco: Video Traffic Set to Dominate Internet.)
“Although operators know they have tons of video on their network and they know it’s a huge driver of growth, they don’t know anything about how they are serving it today and how happy their users are with it,” Koopmans says. “They do know, however, that they are getting congestion.”
Bytemobile’s report looks at these issues on laptops and mobile phones. The optimization vendor has 117 wireless operators across 58 countries for customers, but its analysis homes in on an anonymous sample cross-section of these networks. The data represents a before and after for its customers using its Web optimization product, Koopmans says.
Bytemobile found that mobile video consumption hits its peak at 10 p.m., which may or may not be correlated to the other largest trend it found -- the popularity of adult content. YouTube Inc. accounts for 36 percent of the total video traffic on wireless networks worldwide, while adult content and a hodgepodge of sites like Google Video make up the the rest. Bytemobile says that four of the top 10 video domains across all geographies worldwide are adult content-specific sites, generating nearly 15 percent of the total video traffic on wireless networks.
For all these videos and for even the fastest networks studied, buffering and low-quality video were an issue. Bytemobile’s data showed that instead of taking 60 seconds to watch a minute of video, it took more like 100 or 120 seconds, an amount that increased 30 to 40 percent at peak time. By bringing the resolution down, Koopmans says Bytemobile can bring the average amount of stalling down to 0.2 seconds.
Consumers aren’t putting up with this level of video, but rather than not watch it, they are opting for lower-quality versions. About 90 percent or more of video watched is in standard definition, with around 60 percent of that being even lower quality than standard-def. Virtually none (0.07 percent) is watched in high-definition, despite it being offer by some services, including YouTube.
Bytemobile is able to present this data based on its unique position in the network, but its goal is to encourage operators to sign up for its optimization product, which it says significantly reduces this stalling. The vendor uses compression techniques to improve data download speeds and shape the content to fit within the available bandwidth on existing 3G networks. (See Bytemobile Expands Services.)
But even the move to Long Term Evolution (LTE) won’t alleviate the problem, Koopmans says. LTE will only help capacity, not individual user experiences. This is a change in thinking for the operators, who can pour however much money into the network to support demand, but will always see theoretical demand outstrip that, he says. The real game will be won and lost on the quality of service they are offering.
“Many operators work in a world where they think they are different -- they have a bigger network, better network. They have plans to go to LTE or a next-generation network, and they don’t have a problem,” Koopmans says. “And they don’t know about the video. They are surprised by how much their user experience is affected and how much they can benefit from optimization.”
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile