Video continues to exert its sway as the most popular digital medium, quickly becoming the new storytelling norm, over text and still images. However, the consumption of high-quality video through mobile devices – which happens to be the most popular viewing option – is dependent on advanced technologies such as 4G, which is the prevailing streaming mobile technology for today, and the years to come. With 5G on the horizon, the technology holds promise for lightning-fast data speed which will leverage on the foundation built by 4G.
The sheer volume of online video content has witnessed an exponential increase in the last few years and is only expected to skyrocket in the near future. Consider these statistics:
- 82% of total IP traffic (both business and consumer) will be video by 2022
- Consumer Video-on-Demand (VoD) traffic will nearly double by 2022
- Mobile video will increase nine-fold between 2017 and 2022, accounting for 79% of total mobile data traffic by 2022 end
It’s a no-brainer that video is now the norm and the coming years will only witness burgeoning consumer demand for high-quality video content consumed on mobile devices, including in 4K and 8K formats (in soon-to-be-released mobile devices). Growing demand for seamless and consistent viewing experiences across multiple devices and platforms will lead to an increase in the need for advanced mobile technologies supporting higher speeds, seamless connectivity, and sufficient capacity.
Industry sentiment is that 5G will be the powering factor for true seamless, high-definition video delivery. However, I believe that 4G, provided it is smartly planned and managed, will be able to deliver as required. This comes with a caveat that CSPs need to overcome challenges that have emerged from their current network investment planning processes.
Challenges Faced by CSPs in Offering Quality Video Content over Mobile Devices
Though technological advancements in live video streaming continue to proliferate, content providers are faced with certain critical challenges when it comes to providing seamless experiences to consumers. Some of the top challenges include:
Communication intensity growth: Communication intensity can be defined as: The ratio of the amount of time users spend on their devices, as compared to the absolute number of digital customers (unique subscribers, smartphones and devices). In today’s ecosystem, both metrics are increasing exponentially, and according to Ovum, communication intensity will grow by 63% over the next ten years. This trend is being fueled predominantly by video-related content.
The dramatic increase in demand has really challenged CSPs to maintain high benchmarks for customer experience while mobile subscribers consume copious amounts of streaming content.
Lack of ubiquitous 4G availability
As described above, 4G can offer more than the required bandwidth to have videos stream in real-time. However, speed is of little benefit if it isn’t accessible. There have been improvements made in terms of coverage, however ubiquitous 4G availability is still far away. This is a struggle which even the most developed nations deal with most of the time.
To elaborate further, when I say 4G availability, it means the proportion of time users with a 4G handset have a 4G connection. To put it into context, 4G availability of 80% of a tier 1 CSP means that on an average their subscribers are connected to 4G services 80% of the time.
So, what exactly happens during the remaining 20%? When subscribers lose their connection to a 4G network, their smartphone usually gets handed over to a legacy technology such as 3G to maintain service continuity. In such a scenario, continuing to stream a high definition video will likely be up to 4-5 times slower than 4G, resulting in an extremely poor video streaming experience.
Lack of intelligent future proof planning
4G technology, which can offer a truly superior mobile broadband experience, has witnessed an extraordinary surge in usage resulting in exponential data growth. If this growth is not managed intelligently then it will lead to network congestion, degrading end-user experience. For this reason, CSPs must understand their current state of the network in terms of end-to-end QoS, radio conditions, and capacity requirements. Based on this, CSPs can establish strong mechanisms to measure QoE from encrypted video content streamed into their network and leverage advanced analytics to establish actionable correlations between QoE, QoS, radio conditions and capacity. Only then can they be truly future-ready to meet the demands of consumers of video content and handle the forecasted exponential growth of video traffic seamlessly and efficiently.
Moreover, a powerful analytics solution enables CSPs to have a 360o visibility into the network impact and consumer trends of video data growth to improve revenue and gain competitive advantage.
To learn more about the factors that enable a seamless video streaming experience, Watch our on-demand webinar : “The essential ingredients to gain competitive advantage in the mobile video era”
Alok Kumar Sinha, Product Director-Network Analytics, Subex, has 14+ years of experience in RF planning & optimization, RAN pre-sales, consulting and network analytics product management with prominent telecom companies like Nokia, Ericsson and Amdocs.