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

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