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Next-Gen Networks & Video: What You Need to Know

Fri, 07/29/2011 - 2:26pm
Ronny Haraldsvik, Bytemobile

The explosive growth of smartphones and tablet computing devices has heralded a remarkable increase in consumer demand for entertainment that can be accessed anywhere, anytime. This new era of always connected access is perfectly equipped to encourage subscribers to watch television on their mobile devices. In fact, television viewing on mobile devices has begun to catch up to television viewing over the Internet as these devices come forward as a prominent tool for video viewing both at home and on the road.

Ronny HaraldsvikBecause today's consumers are always connected and access a great deal of content on their high-end smartphones and tablet computers, they expect the same level of experience as they've had on their traditional laptops or desktop PCs. This further intensifies the importance of providing a quality viewing experience.  Unfortunately, as a majority of network operators have already seen, the growth of mobile data traffic has resulted in significant network congestion and therefore a diminished user experience.

The influx of mobile-TV-ready devices and premium content providers entering this market suggests that neither handsets nor content are standing in the way of mobile TV uptake and that quality of experience (QoE) is the determining factor in the rise of mobile TV. For mobile TV, QoE is key to driving the uptake of paid-for mobile TV services. With an array of free-to-air-services available, content and service providers risk losing out on revenue if are unable to support the enhanced user experience expected from a paid-for service.

With the popularity of smartphones and a rise in mobile broadband adoption, we continue to see a strain on networks on a global scale. To support mobile TV, operators must make sure their networks are fully equipped to accommodate the demand for this increase in mobile data. By taking steps to alleviate congestions from over-crowded networks operators can better service the QoE expected from this demanding consumer market.

Bytemobile’s second-quarter 2011 Mobile Analytics Report demonstrated that mobile video already accounts for up to 60 percent of mobile network traffic but subscribers experience stalling 5 -40 percent of the time. Increased demand on capacity requires greater control of networks and the ability to gauge the quality of subscribers' mobile video experience.  Operators need to examine data rates, resolution and stalling in order to ensure service quality and consistency, reduce churn and plan tiered services for different subscriber profiles.

A rise in mobile TV results in more higher-quality content going across the network and operators need to ensure they have policies in place that shape access and bandwidth in a way that means a single subscriber cannot take up all available bandwidth. For example, offering improved resolution for mobile TV across just 10 percent of subscribers can have a 30-40 percent additional impact on capacity consumed and therefore affect the remaining 90 percent of subscribers' user experience.

As we've discussed, the growth of mobile video traffic is rapidly outpacing that of overall data traffic. Unless operators are able to intelligently manage network capacity through data reduction and related technologies, the explosion of multimedia content will continue to eat away at their monetization of data services. Mobile optimization and traffic management not only decrease the amount of traffic on mobile networks, but also help to improve the overall consumer QoE. These technologies provide device and application aware intelligence in the network and allow operators to attain the best utilization of their existing network assets, including spectrum. When combined with LTE, they can help operators meet the ever-growing traffic demand and high user expectations.

LTE lowers the cost of data service delivery for operators, which are then able to pass the cost savings on to their customers and remain competitive. Lower pricing also drives increased adoption of high-end data devices, which in turn results in additional data consumption by consumers. Many network operators are looking towards LTE to provide the solution to their problems, but LTE alone will not be sufficient for operators to meet the mobile data traffic requirements of the future. As the industry moves towards LTE, mobile video content is expected to rise dramatically as network speeds open up operators' pipes and enable more content.

When available, consumers feel compelled to access higher quality content.  While YouTube is already posing real challenges for networks, it pales in comparison to extended play services such as Netflix, Hulu and SkyTV – and that's not even considering the impact of HD video. This means, even when operators spend hundreds of millions of dollars/Euros on network capacity, and with data traffic doubling every year, the additional LTE capacity in the RAN will be "eaten up" in a matter of months.

Today's ever-growing market is ripe for mobile TV as subscribers look for enhanced services on-the-go. But, to capitalize on this market, operators must safeguard their networks against the data surge to entice new customers and avoid increased churn. Mobile optimization is the answer to their problems.

Ronny Haraldsvik is vice president of global marketing at Bytemobile, where he is responsible for the company's worldwide marketing strategy and product marketing.

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