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Mobile Video

Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

Verizon Wireless is using mobile video as a way to earn extra revenue and show off the power of its growing Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. But, to be sensitive to capped data plans, it's focusing on optimizing content for different devices, networks and service plans, even if that means transmitting lower-quality video.

Verizon has had video on the market for several years under the V Cast moniker, but recently overhauled the platform to make use of increasingly capable smartphones and the reach of 4G. Mitch Dornich, Verizon's director of product management and head of Verizon Video, says that the carrier spent time studying other video products to improve its offering. (See Verizon Updates Mobile TV for LTE.)

The two biggest things Verizon learned were that video quality has to be optimized to the particular device it's consumed on, and the user interface has to be state of the art, Dornich says. Verizon's popular NFL Mobile app also provided a proof-point for delivering live video under network constraints.

To address the user interface (UI), Verizon improved its graphics and discovery mechanisms. And, for the video quality, Verizon started taking into account if the phone is on 3G or 4G, how large the screen is, how capable the processor is and what kind of data package the consumer has.

"We’ve matrixed and said, 'Based on a device with a screen size of X and processor of Y and a 3G network, here's the optimum bit rate to stream it at and how to encode it'," Dornich explains. "It’s not prioritizing traffic or differentiating traffic. It's right-sizing to the size of the device."

That doesn't mean always delivering the highest-quality video either, he adds. It's what the processor can handle, as well as what makes sense based on the user's data plan. Consuming video, especially on Verizon's faster LTE network, can propel a user past their data caps relatively quickly. This is a concern Verizon is trying to balance against its ability to offer higher-quality video on 4G. (See Verizon Confirms the End of Unlimited and Verizon Sheds a Tier for Unlimited Data.)

"What you find is there may be other video services that deliver at a higher bit rate because there's no cost to do so, but over time, consumers will be more sensitive to that, so they'll look for the best quality on my handset that's discernible and most efficient for the data plan," Dornich says.

Dornich believes that some consumers will understand the trade-off of potentially lower-quality video for more efficient use of their data plan, while others may not. So far, video consumption for the $10-per-month service has been higher on LTE, where there is more potential to bust through data caps, so the exchange may be welcome. (See Verizon Video Hits its LTE Network.)

Currently, Verizon only offers its video service on smartphones running on its 3G and 4G networks. Dornich says this is because content owners require different rights negotiations for tablets and for use on Wi-Fi. But Verizon is currently in discussions with several content owners for tablet video. The carrier also offers mobile subscription TV access for FiOS subscribers through a partnership with Sling Media Inc. (See CES 2011: Verizon to Sling Video to LTE Phones and Sling, Verizon Combine 4G & TV.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:48:21 PM
re: Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

Dornich made it a point to stress that they aren't prioritizing traffic for mobile video, but I agree that it could be an inevitable move. I also don't really agree with him that most customers will understand the lower quality as a way to not hit their data caps. They'll expect the best quality they can get.


Anybody else surprised about his comment that running video on WiFi requires different content rights? It seems like a bad move not to let consumers use WiFi for this.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:48:21 PM
re: Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

I am remembering an interesting comment from Verizon CTO Tony Melone at CTIA this past spring when he said something about VZW creating a "prioritized video channel" or something like that for LTE. I don't have the exact quote and it wasn't a definitive announcement but... could they successfully break video out of the other data streams?


If they could bill for it separately I wonder if they could get around net neutrality concerns. With applications like NFL Mobile poised to chew up lots of bandwidth it's no surprise that Dornich and Verizon are looking for ways to optimize delivery. Which really means, Verizon doesn't want to waste bandwidth broadcasting signals to devices that can't handle them.


Sounds like they also need to get the app developers involved... any sightings of YouTube folks in the Verizon dev center in SF?

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:48:21 PM
re: Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

I am remembering an interesting comment from Verizon CTO Tony Melone at CTIA this past spring when he said something about VZW creating a "prioritized video channel" or something like that for LTE. I don't have the exact quote and it wasn't a definitive announcement but... could they successfully break video out of the other data streams?


If they could bill for it separately I wonder if they could get around net neutrality concerns. With applications like NFL Mobile poised to chew up lots of bandwidth it's no surprise that Dornich and Verizon are looking for ways to optimize delivery. Which really means, Verizon doesn't want to waste bandwidth broadcasting signals to devices that can't handle them.


Sounds like they also need to get the app developers involved... any sightings of YouTube folks in the Verizon dev center in SF?

timkridel 12/5/2012 | 4:48:20 PM
re: Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

"Anybody else surprised about his comment that running video on WiFi requires different content rights?"


 


No. A wireless technology's range can affect rights, although that doesn't appear to be the case here with Verizon. But see the part about AT&T Park at www.lightreading.com/document.....

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 4:48:20 PM
re: Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

And I Thought they wanted the business.


Marketing meets the Network

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:48:20 PM
re: Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

The Wi-Fi rights thing is an interesting twist; Verizon has quietly solved the problem for NFL Mobile -- earlier this year it was saying you couldn't watch it via a Wi-Fi connection but that has apparently been solved. But notice there is no NFL Mobile app support for the iPad. Some of this was because (I am guessing here) that Verizon signed its content deal with the NFL before it had the iPad.


Given the ability to consume lots more data via Wi-Fi you could see trouble for cable contracts ahead... should be an interesting thing to watch as new TV deals are signed, to see what folks will have to pay for mobile rights. This is just the start of a "new" network... the Wi-Fi cloud.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:48:20 PM
re: Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

The Wi-Fi rights thing is an interesting twist; Verizon has quietly solved the problem for NFL Mobile -- earlier this year it was saying you couldn't watch it via a Wi-Fi connection but that has apparently been solved. But notice there is no NFL Mobile app support for the iPad. Some of this was because (I am guessing here) that Verizon signed its content deal with the NFL before it had the iPad.


Given the ability to consume lots more data via Wi-Fi you could see trouble for cable contracts ahead... should be an interesting thing to watch as new TV deals are signed, to see what folks will have to pay for mobile rights. This is just the start of a "new" network... the Wi-Fi cloud.

Judith Coley Vuclip 12/5/2012 | 4:48:19 PM
re: Verizon Tweaks Mobile Video for Data Caps

Great to see that Verizon is taking the consumer experience seriously as part of their plans to deal with the video data load.  


This is a cause we have championed at Vuclip where our secret sauce is our ability to transcode optimized mobile video on-the- fly for over 5,400 devices and counting. Our goal is to take care of the consumer's video experience no matter whether they have an old 2g feature phone, or the latest handset. And all the time we are doing this, we reduce the transcoding load up to 80% which helps the operators, the consumer and the other players in the value chain.



The bottom line is that consumers will not be interested in stumping up subscriptions for premium products if the experience isn't a good one, and if data charges are unfairly passed along. The trick is to balance the data / payment burden fairly between all the parties.


 






 





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