Guess how many movies are available online? More than 30,000! That’s only from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. How many YouTube videos? Hundreds of millions. It is estimated that 300,000 hours worth of videos are uploaded online every minute. You, quite literally, get the picture – consumption of online video is going through the roof. More precisely, it is going through mobile networks.
According to Cisco, in 2016, mobile video streaming traffic accounted for 60 percent of total mobile data traffic on operator networks. In a few years, it will reach 80 percent. From cute pets to the latest blockbuster, subscribers can’t get enough of watching their favorite videos on their handsets. This explosion of mobile streaming video is stretching networks to breaking point.
Gone in 6 seconds
Arguably, mobile operators are the victims of their own success. As network providers have invested in network technology – from 3G to 4G, with 5G coming soon – subscribers have acquired a taste for the latest smartphones, the highest possible specs, and expect a superior Quality Experience (QoE) on their mobiles. Especially for video.
Research amongst mobile subscribers in North America, Europe, and the Middle East gathered insight on people’s mobile video habits and gripes when it comes to QoE. Subscribers revealed that they will only put up with six seconds of video buffering and they blame operators for poor video quality. And if they constantly suffer from appalling QoE, subscribers ditch their operator in favor of a competitor.
The OTT-eat-OTT world
Over-the-Top (OTT) players aren’t making life easy for operators either. In the intense fight to win customers, video providers such as Netflix have launched high-quality 4K videos that can suck up bandwidth. If that wasn’t enough, OTTs are encrypting data at an alarming rate. For example, Google’s QUIC encryption protocol was introduced in July 2016 to support its YouTube app. Within just four months, the level of QUIC coated data on mobile networks increased by 200 percent.
Why is this trend worrying? Encrypted data prevents operators from using traditional traffic management tools to handle QoE. If operators aren’t able to effectively manage the data traffic on their networks, subscribers suffer from poor QoE – and ultimately it impacts the bottom line if subscribers churn.
In data we trust
Operators need the capability to make informed decisions about their mobile networks – and be one step ahead of the OTT. That’s where accurate video streaming analytics can make a crucial difference. Operators require technology that give them insight on the precise type of data travelling on the network even when the traffic is encrypted. For example, is the video from Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube? Is it standard definition video at 480p resolution or is it Ultra HD video? Is the video being live streamed or downloaded? What codec is being used to deliver the video as this has a bearing on the bit rate at which the video is being delivered? What device is the video being delivered to as that is a key factor driving user QoE?
Unfortunately, conventional Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and traffic management technologies are barely useful anymore as their large signature databases were never designed for encrypted video streaming. And right now there aren’t any analytics solution on the horizon that would counter the encryption effect. Operators need pure software solutions that manage streaming video, and are evolved to be agile, with heuristics designed for encrypted video and virtualized so they can be easily deployed in the Cloud. Operators also need the capability to not just manage the encryption protocols of today, but easily manage future data patterns that OTTs are bound to adopt.
The explosion of video is by no means bad news for operators. Research shows that while subscribers hold the operator solely responsible for quality, they are prepared to put money where their mouth is. Subscribers are happy to pay extra for good quality video. That mirrors a statement made at this year’s MWC by Huawei’s CEO who believes that mobile video is a $1 trillion revenue opportunity for operators. That’s music to the ears of many network providers who are facing stiff competition and razor thin revenue margins. So, want to stream more and save more on the network? Start by putting your faith in smart video analytics.