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OpenSignal: Mobile video experience has improved globally, but US lags

Network download speeds don’t necessarily reflect a good mobile video experience, OpenSignal finds

The mobile video user experience is improving around the world, but the United States is lagging behind enhancements being made in other countries due to a lack of new mid-band spectrum resources, according to new analysis from OpenSignal.

OpenSignal ranked the mobile video experiences of users in 100 countries, based on analysis of 94 billion measurements taken between August 1 and October 30 of this year, from nearly 37.7 billion devices around the world. The company found that the mobile video experience improved in 59% of countries, ranked across categories of Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor.

Last year, OpenSignal didn’t rank any country as having an “excellent” mobile video experience. This year, six countries made the cut: Norway, the Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Hungary and the Netherlands. Users in 37% of countries had either an Excellent or Very Good ranking. Twenty-two countries moved their ranking up from Good to Very Good, another 21 moved from Fair to Good, and nine more moved from Poor to Fair performance. France jumped two categories in improvement, from Fair to Very Good. Forty-one countries’ category remained unchanged.

On the other end of the spectrum, only 9 countries had a “poor” ranking in this year’s analysis, with Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Iraq falling at the bottom of the list.

The U.S. was one of the countries whose ranking category remained unchanged: it was assessed as “Fair” both in 2018 and 2019, although it did see an increase in its score from 46.7 points to 53.8, which wasn’t enough to bump it up to the next category.

“Americans had the lowest Video Experience score of any of the G7 economically leading countries,” OpenSignal said, adding that U.S. carriers are “[struggling] with the combination of enormous mobile video consumption and insufficient new spectrum. Opensignal’s results highlight the need for the release of more mid-band spectrum to help U.S. carriers meet the mobile video needs of Americans.”

OpenSignal also noted that just because a network can serve up fast download speeds, doesn’t mean that it also provides a good experience for watching video — usually because of the way that operators manage video traffic. It highlighted that South Korea ranked first for download speeds but 21st for video experience, and Canada had the third-fastest download speeds but was ranked 22cd for video.

“This contrast between results in part reflects the way wireless operators routinely manage mobile video traffic differently to file downloads in order to prevent the vast quantities of video data hurting the experience of other mobile apps and services,” OpenSignal said, going on to add that “mobile video streaming is not treated the same by wireless operator networks as a file download test, and this shows through in Opensignal’s analytics results.”

Video demand is only going to increase for domestic operators. United States carriers are bundling access to video services such as Amazon Prime, Hulu or Netflix with cellular plans and companies such as Apple and Disney making smartphone access a “significant part” of their propositions for Apple TV+ and Disney+, OpenSignal noted.

“Every iPhone bought includes one year of free access to Apple TV+,” OpenSignal said. “The mobile app for Disney+ was downloaded 3.2m times in the first 24 hours after the service launched,” even though the service was only launched in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, U.S. operator often “use the attraction of TV, movies and other video services to spur consumers to join their network, or to trigger customers to upgrade to a more expensive tariff plan.” And in addition, mobile video advertising is becoming more important: OpenSignal cited numbers from the Internet Advertising Bureau that 62% of total video ad starts are happening on mobile, meaning that advertisers have a vested interest in mobile video experience as well.

“It’s not only consumers, media companies and wireless carriers that care about mobile video experience but mobile video is also increasingly important for advertisers,” OpenSignal said.

Read the full report here. 


Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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