5G Key Takeaways for Mobile Operators
Mobile video is growing at a phenomenal rate, but it is a double-edged sword. Openwave Mobility’s research on live operator networks found that currently video is 58% of traffic by volume worldwide. Subscribers love it, but monetizing it is easier said than done, given the flood of HD content and encryption that is adversely impacting Quality of Experience (QoE).
Experts have debated the Quality of Delivery (reduced buffering) versus Quality of Picture (resolution) and the implications. Why does this matter? That’s because when subscribers experience poor quality when streaming video our research found that consumers blame the operator, not the OTT. And it is only a matter of time before they churn. With more video traversing mobile networks than ever before, QoE is a major headache.
So, here are some of the key 5G takeaways for operators:
1. The how and why of mobile video: Interestingly, most operators experienced growth in mobile video during 4G – from 2010 to 2015 – and it came as a result of increased video watch times. But, since 2015, growth in mobile video has come significantly as a result of a move to higher bandwidth HD content, rather than greater watch time only. That’s evidence of HD content from the likes of Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video growing in popularity. As operators prepare for the dawn of 5G, there is one sure-fire certainty: HD content (including 4K and soon 8K content) and therefore mobile video will soar.
2. Skyrocketing mobile video: The MViC forecast on the day that 90% of traffic on 5Gwill be mobile video. Dimitris Mavrakis, Research Director at ABI Research also highlighted some key 5G mobile video insights during his MVIC presentation: “5G Vision and Deployments”. Some operators are yet to fully monetize 4G and they are already looking at 5G as an enterprise vertical enabler. According to Mavrakis, 5G will initially be used to improve the consumer user experience – and surprise surprise – mobile video will spearhead this strategy.
In 2016, mobile video represented 48% of traffic and ABI Research predicts that 5G’s mobile video growth will accelerate in 2022. By 2025, video will reach 78% – and here’s the punch line: 40% will be 4K video that sucks up bandwidth.
3. Way more encryption: Remember the fanfare when 4G was launched? 4G was all about mobility and connectivity. It propelled companies like Waze, Uber and Spotify. Also, Edward Snowden happened. The shockwaves it sent encouraged many OTTs to jump at the opportunity to encrypt their data. The likes of Google and Facebook coated their data with secure protocols that prevented operators from managing the very data that travels on their own networks. Encryption is here to stay – and with 5G, it will intensify. 5G technologies will usher a new wave of mobile video data – much more diverse than 4G.
4. Way, way more data intensity: 5G has far more data intensive services and already, OTTs are lining up to take advantage of immersive services such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). However, Augmented Reality can be 33x more data intensive than equivalent 480p video. And with it comes more encryption. And if that was not enough, it is expected that OTT services will have more subscribers than pay TV customers when 5G becomes widespread.
5. 4G/LTE Networks will remain for years to come: While all the focus on 5G is well deserved, our customers are quick to point out that 4G/LTE networks are not going away anytime soon as they will be critical to ensure nationwide coverage. From an investment perspective, the focus for 4G networks will shift from new build-outs to maximize the capacity of these networks. This means tools such as RAN Congestion based video optimization will be critical to help operators preserve good QoE and enhance 4G RAN capacity while investing in 5G network build out.
New opportunities with 5G
The growth in 4G democratized mobile video. Thanks to a smartphone and a decent data connection, people can watch cute cat videos almost anywhere. A number of operators treated video like any other service. They didn’t consider it important enough for preferential treatment. Of course encryption did not help the cause either for many operators. 5G can change all that.
Armed with new optimization technology, 5G provides the opportunity for more granular service prioritization and network appropriation. If operators get their ducks in a row, 5G can indeed provide the impetus for the creation of a new video ecosystem.
(The author is SVP of Products, Sales & Marketing, Openwave Mobility)