Optimizing Video In The Era Of Streaming Wars

While growth in mobile video content has been expected, many operators have not anticipated the exponential growth in HD content.

What’s the Impact On 5G Quality?

With 5G promising speeds of anywhere between 10 and 50 Gbps, orders of magnitude faster than anything 4G can offer, and with an increase in gigabit internet deployments across the globe, over-the-top (OTT) content will become easier and faster to access than ever before. As a result, there will be more OTT subscribers than traditional pay TV consumers by the end of 2019. Indeed, subscriptions to streaming services have already begun overtaking pay TV in both the UK and the US.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile will become an increasingly popular means of consuming OTT content, although it’s likely to be an additional screen rather than a replacement. And, given the sheer volume of video content and with the APIs it offers, 5G could soon be regarded as a video distribution network. Delivering a wealth of data for content providers and advertisers, it could truly transform the future of mobile video. 

Some of this is not new: mobile video usage has grown between 50 to 100 percent each year for the past five years, and in locales that lack fixed-line alternatives or competitive data plan pricing, growth rates are higher still. What is challenging operators is a two-fold problem from video traffic: encryption, which generally applies to between 65 to 95 percent of total traffic depending upon geography, and the inability to control data on their networks.  

While growth in mobile video content has been expected, many operators have not anticipated the exponential growth in HD content. By the end of 2018, 50 percent of all mobile video traffic will be HD, and that’s set to increase to around 60 percent in 2019. This growth in HD, in addition to longer viewing times, will drive a further increase in video traffic on mobile networks. 

This is good news for millions of subscribers, of course, but mobile operators now face the challenge of having to handle the resultant increase in traffic and ensuing encrypted protocols, which have the potential to wreak havoc on QoE. In fact, the importance of QoE to 5G networks is driving significant growth in the mobile video optimization market, which is projected to grow significantly over the next five years. One should also note that it will take mobile operators many years to ensure ubiquitous 5G coverage. This means they will need to support their customers through a mix of 4G and 5G networks, ensuring a smooth experience as customers roam between the two networks. This requires an intelligent video optimization solution that is 4G- or 5G-, device-, content- and subscriber-policy aware to ensure a smooth user QOE, especially for video streaming content.  

An interesting side note to that research is that, on a daily basis, tablet users are three times more likely to view video content than smartphone users, yet sales growth of tablets has slowed to some extent in recent years. That growth is shifting toward mini-tablets, or phablets, which are primarily focused on entertainment.

Another key challenge is the need for operators to optimize the new services that 5G will support versus optimizing the network itself. 5G networks require experience modeling and network optimization based on low latency. This basis matters because different 5G services will have different requirements in terms of data rates and delay stability to support different low-latency services like live VR video streams and live VR eSports games. This means different management solutions have to be formulated for network optimization based on differentiated experiences. For example, optimizing for VR video services requires developing multiple cases, along with mapping different rates and delays to key performance indicators (KPIs).

There is no question that 5G networks present a great deal of opportunity for mobile operators to monetize their networks and compete against OTTs, regaining market share and establishing their place in the digital economy. The operators that understand the coming tsunami of mobile video—and understand the importance of implementing network optimization to address it—will ride the wave to success.


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