Video traffic on mobile devices is climbing at an amazing rate. It’s been reported that 80 percent of mobile traffic will be video in two years, and according to Strategy Analytics worldwide revenue from mobile video will reach $25 billion by 2021.
This year mobile video viewing has averaged 29 minutes a day and will grow 25 percent in 2018 and 29 percent in 2019, driven by the spread of mobile devices, improved displays and faster mobile data connections, per Zenith’s annual Online Video Forecasts report. On the other hand, viewing on fixed devices is expected to shrink 1 percent in 2018 and 2 percent in 2019. By 2019, mobile devices will account for 72 percent of all online video viewing, up from 61 percent this year.
Until now mobile video was pretty much treated like any other video service addressing connected devices and, more importantly, was not tailored to mobile networks. This has created a disappointing video experience and given birth to video optimization techniques in the early 2010s, which were eclipsed by the arrival of DRM, HTTPS and adaptive bitrate technologies. The door is now open for mobile innovation and in order to create a much better mobile experience, we have to develop a technology that is fully adapted to mobile devices and mobile networks.
The growth that’s currently going on in the OTT world is exciting, but it has presented mobile operators with a few challenges. It’s likely that 4G LTE is here to stay for at least another 10 years, until 5G really takes off. With the network remaining the same and traffic increasing on mobile devices, the industry needs to put measures in place to effectively manage traffic on the network.
One way to do that is by improving the method of video compression. Recently, we saw Apple’s endorsement of HEVC, which offers 40 to 50 percent bandwidth efficiency over AVC. This endorsement is a big deal because HEVC is the most popular modern codec to date if we consider embedded devices such as TVs, STBs and mobile devices. Frost & Sullivan estimates that there are two billion HEVC-enabled devices in the field. At Harmonic, we’re helping shape mobile delivery by making our software-based encoders and native-cloud offerings, including the Electra X2, Electra XT, Electra VS, VOS™ Cloud and VOS 360 solutions, upgradeable to HEVC. These solutions will be showcased as part of our innovation for mobile operators at the upcoming IBC2017 tradeshow, Sept. 15-19 in Amsterdam at stand 1.B20.
Let’s say you are not ready to upgrade to HEVC for licensing, decoder processing power or device replacement reasons. It’s possible to deliver superior video quality at the lowest possible bitrates utilizing an existing codec, such as AVC. Operators can reach 100 percent of subscribers in the field; there’s no need to upgrade client devices, or to pay any additional license fees on the player or on the streams. There are also techniques that operators can use to dynamically allocate bits in the network for OTT. The goal here is to ensure that viewers always get the best video quality without crossing bandwidth thresholds. Let’s see how those methods work in the real world.
At IBC2017, we’ll show how viewers can watch pristine video on their device of choice, even over constrained 3G and 4G mobile networks, using our EyeQ™ content aware compression solution with new packaging technology. This is an improvement over the zero-rated services now popular in U.S. and deployed by T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Zero rating offers unlimited video usage at a limited resolution (480p) and bitrate (1.5M/s). With current approaches, the encoding and the rate shaping are done independently, resulting in some cases in reduction of video quality when the traffic is capped. In Harmonic’s case, we cap the traffic at a variable resolution as opposed to a fixed resolution. This method provides the best quality of experience (QoE) at a defined bitrate, by combining an encoder that produces variable bitrate and a packager that selects the best resolution for a defined cap.
Now let’s take a look at mobile video scaling. We are seeing a trend in the mobile industry where operators are using Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (MBMS) over LTE, also known as eMBMS, to absorb peak live traffic. Harmonic will demonstrate eMBMS at IBC, showing how popular content can be distributed efficiently in a one-to-many (multicast) configuration for mobile devices as well as STBs for the “fixed wireless” use case that is gaining popularity in rural areas or emerging markets where broadband cannot be delivered in a wired way. This is an area in which we’ve had real-world success, having recently supported a large deployment of eMBMS with a major mobile and digital services operator.
Harmonic is on the bleeding-edge of technology when it comes to delivering video to mobile devices and through mobile networks. We go beyond simple OTT delivery, which has limitations in terms of scalability and QoE. Stop by our booth at IBC2017 to see the latest innovations for mobile operators. We’d love to have a conversation with you about how we can elevate your business to the next level.
– Thierry Fautier, Vice President of Video Strategy at Harmonic and President of the Ultra HD Forum