April 6, 2012
Canadian wireless operator Wind Mobile has been using analytics from Avvasi Inc. since December in order to bring a higher level of scrutiny to the video that traverses its mobile network. (See Canada's WIND Taps Avvasi for OTT Analytics.)
And, the insight it's gained in the first three months has encouraged the wireless startup to think about optimizing over-the-top content, changing up its business model to monetize it and even potentially launching its own mobile video or TV service.
Wind Mobile has seen over-the-top video usage skyrocket on its network since it joined the Canadian wireless scene in 2008. Ante Rupcic, its VP of core networks, says the growth caught the small operator by surprise, but it's using Avvasi's technology to learn all it can about it.
Specifically, Wind has tapped Avvasi's Q-VUE analytics technology to track traffic patterns on its networks, checking for stalls, playback delays or image distortions. It uses that knowledge to rectify problems in the network with the ultimate goal being to optimize and monetize video usage amongst its 400,000-wide subscriber base.
"Unless you have a good way to measure it, you can't throw optimization solutions at it," Rupcic says. "You need to know what you're measuring, and [optimization] can be expensive, or it can be applied in the wrong places."
Quantifying video quality
According to Avvasi President and CEO Mate Prgin, up to 50 percent of video traffic can have unacceptable quality depending on the network, geography and time of day. His five-year-old company is focused on tackling the last-mile quality-of-experience issues that could be holding the market back.
The Q-VUE software gives video a perceptual score between one and five on the quality of experience, taking in account stalling and re-buffering, as well as the stability of the network by the appearance on the screen.
Prgin says Avvasi typically observes a presentation quality of 2.9 out of five. That's what YouTube Inc. runs on the iPhone, for example. Wind has seen performance above that as it upgrades its network to high-speed packet access-plus (HSPA+), but Rupcic says it also varies by cell site and geography.
"If we have a premium sub on an expensive data plan and they're not getting good quality of experience, that's a problem," Prgin adds. Avvasi's pitch is that operators charge more for a guaranteed level of quality provided they can ensure it at a reasonable cost to the network. Those that aren't high-paying consumers may only get best effort, he says.
Wind isn’t yet to this stage. Right now it's just working on information gathering, but what it's learned is that video is exploding on its network, and it won't be happy watching it go over-the-top for long. Rupcic says it wants to be a part of the value chain and use high-quality video as a differentiator versus its larger competitors in Canada. And, if it can charge more for it –- or potentially transition from unlimited data plans to tiers that build in the cost of video -- that's something it will explore too.
"It has given us an appetite for looking at our own service or partnering with others," Rupcic says. "It allows us to think about new business models and look at content delivery networks and providing on-demand video or TV streaming or video streaming in a way where we could offer it and understand its quality and performance and optimize it as required."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile
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