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Reality Check: Could streaming video crash your mobile network?

With streaming video content delivery mechanisms hogging bandwidth and QoE, Flash Networks looks at potential solutions

Video traffic is flooding mobile networks and the tsunami has only just begun. According to our customer data, mobile video traffic accounted for 55% of total mobile data traffic in 2015, and according to Cisco is expected to reach three-quarters of the total traffic by 2020.
More than half of YouTube views today come from mobile devices. In addition, the number of hours spent watching videos on the mobile is up 100% over last year. The average viewing session now exceeds 40 minutes, an increase of 50%.
But, possibly even more threatening than the sheer quantity of bandwidth is the fact that video is now delivered using the greedy adaptive bandwidth rate. ABR is designed to use the maximum amount of bandwidth available at the time of viewing, and try to maximize its network consumption to ensure the best video viewing experience. The ABR format can act as a bandwidth hog influencing traffic flows by switching bandwidth to specific applications, creating latency and worsening performance for other content and data services such as chat apps, Facebook, web browsing and LinkedIn.
Demanding network resources becomes even more problematic with higher definition video. Streaming in 1080p takes up three gigabytes per hour, while 4K resolution burns through 7 GB per hour, resulting in an estimated 30% to 53% increase in stream sizes. With the new exciting 360-degree video, the mobile video portion will only grow faster.

What are the risks?

Why should the inability to manage data traffic be concerning? Because there is a risk that operators will not be able to deliver on the promise of smooth video viewing, quick downloads, short page load time and in some cases there can even be an interruption of service. Subscribers reported growing frustration and a desire to jump carriers the minute service was interrupted.
Earlier this year, Australia’s biggest telecommunications provider, Telstra, went down across the country with the outage affecting all smartphones. T-Mobile US also reported performance issues in February.
ABR video streaming can also sabotage periodic speed tests used to establish which operator is the fastest. PC Week hit the road last June for its second annual speed test comparing mobile data speeds for AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile US and Verizon Wireless in 30 American cities. They also took their road test to determine which Canadian carrier is the speed king.
OpenSignal recently published data collected from 182,000 of its app users to compare the overall 3G and “4G” performance of all four nationwide U.S. nationwide operators.
P3 Communications together with Connect benchmarked the mobile ¬networks in Spain and in the Netherlands to discover which operator offers the best telephony and connectivity to its customers. The 2015 P3 CommsDay Mobile Benchmark Australia, which compares user experience across Telstra, Vodafone and Optus, was published last October.

How can operators take back control?

As mobile video viewing becomes the norm and people continue to crave high definition video delivered using ABR techniques, mobile operators will need to take steps to ensure a consistent quality of experience for all of their subscribers and applications.
There are adaptive bit rate management techniques that can help balance all mobile traffic to make sure there is enough bandwidth for all data services, including messaging Facebook, etc. These solutions in addition to enforcing fair access to network resources, ensure an improved quality of experience by reducing congestion in both the radio and application layers. Both HTTP and HTTPS traffic is optimized to improve the quality of experience for everyone.
Optimizing the application layer can further improve the user experience. The fingerprints of high data objects such as high-definition video, games and apps, can be identified and only when there is a high level of congestion that threatens the user experience, this traffic can be optimized to provide faster app downloads, and audio and video streaming.
In today’s competitive market, not being able to deliver a superior user experience can result in low customer satisfaction and churn. Providing quality video viewing and high availability of mobile Internet services will continue to be a high priority for mobile operators.
As the sheer volume of video increases and ABR video streaming techniques hog network resources, there are technologies that can enable operators to take back control of their mobile networks ensuring a positive quality of experience for all their subscribers.
Editor’s Note: The RCR Wireless News Reality Check section is where C-level executives and advisory firms from across the mobile industry share unique insights and experiences.

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Subject to editorial review and copy edit, RCR Wireless News accepts bylined thought leadership articles, up to 1000 words, from industry executives. Submitted articles become property of RCR Wireless News. Submit articles to [email protected] with "Reality Check" in subject line.

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