'Not only do operators need to prove that LTE supports video effectively, they also need to deliver a quality user experience'
When we look back at the launch of 3G 10 years ago, and the big claims made about its capabilities, it’s clear to see that the promises ran ahead of reality. Mobile operators heralded 3G as true mobile broadband. Instead, true high bandwidth mobile data arrived some five years later thanks to the introduction of improved devices, such as the Apple iPhone, and more advanced mobile technology in HSPA and HSPA+.
While it became a step change in capability from UMTS, HSPA was never going to be able to support the burgeoning international data demands being placed on global networks. The flurry of advanced smartphones and tablets exposed HSPA's shortcomings - delivering patchy, unreliable service. However, it was mobile video usage that really exposed the limitations of HSPA.
The great leap forward was to come with LTE. As with the arrival of 3G, operators' marketers have, once again, been generating hype when selling LTE capabilities, and making bold claims of a fast and seamless 4G experience. Selling an improved mobile video user experience is central to these LTE marketing strategies. Why? Because it is the most visually engaging service, and is going to grow significantly over the next four years. Cisco predicts 66% of all network bandwidth will be consumed by mobile video by 2017. However, video traffic already accounts for 50% of all bandwidth for one tier one EMEA operator, and North American tier one operators are already seeing it pass the 50% mark.
Video has become a judgment on overall network quality. Not only do operators now need to prove that LTE supports video effectively, they also need to deliver a quality user experience as demand surges unpredictably. To retain profitability and credibility with their customers, operators must prove they can make mobile video work.
Of course, the high bandwidth, low latency nature of LTE makes it better suited to deliver mobile video. However, LTE alone cannot ensure a high quality video experience for all users at all times and places. While LTE delivers around a 4-5x performance gain over 3G, mobile data is set to grow 12x by 2017, according to the Cisco VNI study. More importantly, individual users may be at the edge of a 4G cell or behind obstructions that impact the RF conditions and unable to achieve anything like the vaunted LTE speeds advertised. Video streaming will expose that. According to data from Conviva, from an analysis of over 22 billion streams it monitored across 190 countries during 2012, around 15% of video streamed to Android and iOS devices never even successfully started, and 1 in 10 minutes of video viewing was spent mired in buffering and stalls. Across desktop and mobile, 30% of video streams experienced annoying re-buffering and stalls after starting.
The solution is to pair LTE and 3G services with new software that can monitor the QoE and real-time bandwidth conditions for every session on the network, detect cases of high bandwidth media being requested by users with poor connections, and mitigate that and provide relief. We call this kind of capability 'experience assurance'. Mobile video optimisation can then cost-effectively, using new cloud architectures, adapt video, audio and images to fit into the available connection for that user and their specific device.
Metered data plans mean that when 15%-30% of users are experiencing poor video playback, many abandon their streams and operators miss out on a chance to drive more data consumption. If operators are going to consistently meet their customers' expectations and maximize their data monetisation, they must be able to deliver on the promise of LTE with novel solutions.
Availability of TV shows and movies online isn't a major factor in an increase in the number of U.S. households which watch over-the-air TV signals and do not subscribe to a traditional pay-TV service, according to new research from GfK Media & Entertainment.
"There is no denying that online or streaming video does play a role, and one that continues to creep up into the mainstream," David Tice, a senior vice president of Media and Entertainment at GfK, wrote on the research firm's blog. "But is it currently the primary driver of people moving back to broadcast-only reception? Our data still don't point to that conclusion."
Rather, it's the high cost of pay-TV services that is leading most of those who have given it up back to free broadcast TV, GfK found. According to the company's latest numbers, about 19.3 percent of TV households say they only receive over-the-air broadcasts. That's up from 17.8 percent a year earlier and from 14 percent in 2010.
(By Mike Proulx, Co-Author of Social TV, SVP/Director of Digital Strategy at Hill Holliday) There are conversations happening in the boardrooms of every TV network and MSO about the one thing that could have the most impact on television as we know...
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