Telcos didn’t predict HD video uptake hitting 38% – Openwave Mobility

New research from Openwave Mobility claims the stress on mobile networks around the world can be put down to user uptake of HD video, which now stands at 38%.

Openwave Mobility didn’t go as far as to say telcos are not prepared for such uptake, but it is a logical conclusion. If telcos didn’t anticipate it, and are now experiencing bottlenecks on the network, preparation was lacking.

The research is based on live deployments at 30 mobile operators around the globe from 2013 to 2017. HD video only represented 5.7% of video traffic four years ago, though this number has swelled to 38%, with the team expecting this trend to continue upwards to 50% by the end of 2018. This has been pinned down to the popularity of OTT streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix on mobile devices.

“OTTs have launched a land grab,” said John Giere, CEO of Openwave Mobility. “In 3 years OTTs wiped out voice revenues. In 2.5 years they wiped out messaging revenues. Is mobile data next? You bet. Along with encryption obscuring mobile networks, operators have to grapple with the unstoppable appetite for HD video content from OTT players.”

It is a story which we have become very familiar with over the last couple of years. The telcos pay for the infrastructure, only to collect the crumbs as the insatiable appetite for data continues to grow. The OTTs are only encouraging this gobble of data, while simultaneously offering free services which wipe out the cash cows of the telcos. It’s a trend which will have a lifetime, but the end doesn’t seem to be in sight for the moment. The OTTs seem happy to continue biting the hand that feeds them.

Telcos have continually been frustrated by trends, and you have to have some sympathy for them. Admittedly they were slow off the line and never got ahead of consumer trends, but the commoditization of data is essentially ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this report is the need for HD video. We understand it will produce a better resolution, but considering the size of the screen on most mobile devices, you have to question whether the benefit outweighs the increased data demands (or whether there is any notable benefit to start with). This is one instance where data throttling might be considered appropriate.

Another area of frustration for the telcos is increased volume of encrypted data. There are of course security and privacy benefits to encryption, but from an experience perspective, how can the telcos improve something which they are not aware of.

“Facing an onslaught from OTT encrypted traffic, the challenge for operators is – how can you manage what you can’t see?” said Giere.

Users are becoming less and less tolerant of buffering, though telcos are seemingly unable to do anything at the moment. The research claims 75% of all mobile traffic is now encrypted, stifling the mobile operator’s ability to maintain subscriber Quality of Experience, as encryption protocols prevent operators from being able to profile or optimize data using conventional traffic management tools.

Most of the time we are perfectly happy to point the finger at the telcos and say they are not spending/being adventurous/thinking long-term enough, but this is an area where you have to have a bit of sympathy. It is questionable whether HD is necessary, and they can’t even do anything to optimize it.

One comment

  1. Avatar N McQ 22/11/2017 @ 2:37 pm

    Interesting topic.
    The piece around the apps streaming too high a quality is inaccurate however – the two major players (I can’t comment on others) both default to only streaming in a resolution good enough to ‘look’ like HD quality on a mobile screen. to stream in full-HD involves digging into settings and manually enabling this feature – something I highly doubt most users are capable of doing, let alone being aware of the option!

    On the topic of telcos ‘being slow off the line’, only ourselves to blame! This has been evident for since at least the advent of the iPhone (and how popular even the very first device was for watching Youtube – one of the 1st 3rd-party apps on the phone remember), it not before. The Internet subsuming all media distribution has been a given and the opportunity was lost while us telcos enjoyed the distraction that was the SMS-and-voice cash bonanza – both of which were going to be absorbed into the Internet (again, completely evident since at least the arrival of Skype). this may sound negative, but more a case of pointing out what has happened up to now, and that there is so much opportunity.

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