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3 things operators wanted to know about mobile video…but couldn’t find out because it’s encrypted (Reality Check)

There’s no doubt that mobile video is the megatrend no operator can ignore. Understanding what users are watching, for how long, when and in what format should be elementary for mobile network operators. However, rising encryption levels on networks make traffic analysis almost impossible using traditional monitoring methods such as deep packet inspection (DPI). The results of a new survey, revealed in the Mobile Video Index illustrate attitudes and viewing habits of European subscribers. The study was carried out by an independent research agency and polled over 3,000 mobile subscribers in Germany, Spain, and the UK – three mature mobile markets in Western Europe.

Here are three key findings showing how the behaviors — and frustrations — of mobile subscribers are impacting today’s networks.

  1. Is Facebook a serious contender to YouTube?

While YouTube leads as the most used video platform on cellular networks in terms of quantity of video, Facebook is closing the gap. Every day, 38 percent of Europeans access Facebook video on their mobile devices, and 30 percent visit YouTube to watch videos on their mobiles. The figures relate to the number of accesses, and of course, that is not the same as volume of data consumed, but Facebook’s increasing prevalence demonstrates it is now a serious competitor to YouTube when it comes to mobile video.

  1. What’s the deal with buffering?

Mobile video viewing is dominated by short-form videos. Perhaps that is why subscribers are so impatient when it comes to waiting for content to load. Almost one in two European subscribers are only prepared to put up with 4-5 seconds of buffering before they give up on a video. This echoes two similar studies conducted in the United States and in the Middle East. A majority of mobile subscribers in both those regions cited that approximately 6 seconds of buffering was enough for them to lose interest and abandon a video in frustration.

  1. What do subscribers really want with video?

The ubiquitous large-screen smartphone format does not look like it is going away any time soon, perfect as it is for watching video. Not surprisingly, there has been a dramatic increase in HD video content across mobile networks. Because HD video takes up three to four times more bandwidth than standard definition (SD) video, it is rapidly becoming a headache for operators who are powerless to manage their increasingly encrypted network traffic. The survey asked subscribers which format they actually prefer. The results? Three out of five subscribers would rather have SD without buffering, versus HD video with low to moderate buffering.

Now for the good news…

There is a silver lining, despite the fact that video content is increasingly encrypted, buffering is bad for business, and the proportion of HD video is growing on networks. European subscribers are hardly backward about coming forward with their frustrations, so it is heartening that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. European subscribers are prepared to pay on average an extra €7.50 per month — roughly $9.25 — for excellent quality of experience (QoE), defined as less than two seconds of buffering for videos viewed via a mobile data connection.

Mobile trends move fast. Whatever the latest OTT streaming content fad, it will have an immediate knock-on effect on mobile networks, and correspondingly on customer QoE. Whether we are watching funny viral videos, joining the latest gaming craze or binge-watching HD content, it is up to mobile operators to manage network traffic, optimize network performance… and monetize the data on their networks. Rising encryption levels are creating new challenges for operators, and customer QoE is the first to take the hit. However, our research shows that subscribers are willing to pay for premium QoE. In other words, there is money on the table. Now is the time for operators to act swiftly to shore up customer QoE issues against the rising tide of mobile video.


Reality Check
Reality Check
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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