HomeMobile EuropeOpinion - Tackling the mobile video tsunami

    Opinion – Tackling the mobile video tsunami


    Sean Mitchell, CEO of mobile video company Movidius, gives his perspective on the impact of the approaching wave of mobile video traffic …

    The last few months have seen a boom in ‘HD video'- enabled phones.These handsets, typically delivering sub-camcorder-quality video in the range of 720p, have proven popular especially with early adopter consumers. It seems consumers will buy almost any mobile device with ‘HD' on the box,and the industry has been pandering to this trend.

    This drive towards video enabled handsets shows no sign of slowing down. Next year HD capable smartphones with even more sophisticated features, such as real-time-video-editing and increased social network integration, will in turn lead to yet more video traffic.

    However the incredibly bandwidth-intensive nature of video presents a major CAPEX burden for wireless network operators. According to recent studies by Coda Research Consultancy mobile data traffic, mainly comprising video, will go from eight petabytes a month this year to 327 petabytes a month by 2015, (  That's roughly a 4000% increase or 117% compound annual growth rate. Cisco has reported similar explosive growth in internet video traffic.

    Networks are already straining under the increased signalling and data traffic as smartphones are added to their systems. More video is only going to make the struggle worse. And that's without including other visible trends, such as demand for 3D mobile video.

    According to Coda, should the current capacity levels remain static, network operators will be unable to provide adequate capacity to their customers by as soon as 2012.

    Movidius has similar insights from traffic models developed with ReWheel of Finland showing a direct link between CAPEX and the predicted growth in video download demand.

    Ironically the on-phone video-editing and uploading boom around the corner will place the lesser burden on networks. Network CAPEX spend is actually dominated by download capacity requirements.

    Most networks have identified infrastructure upgrades to deal with the anticipated tsunami. Nonetheless the trend clearly has them worried about their ability to maintain quality of service within a constrained CAPEX spend. At Mobile World Congress 2010 we saw a range of operator executives bemoaning this very problem.

    The solution can come in many forms depending on the nature of the operator's network. Traffic management and off-loading techniques can contribute significantly. 

    As another approach, operators are working on handset device technology that contributes to increasing the available downlink capacity of the network thereby increasing the efficiency of the available CAPEX.

    The upcoming explosion of on-mobile video editing features will also allow people to upload only the video they need. With further ‘smart upload' approaches using on-device technology operators can further optimise their network capacity across the day while increasing effective peak-time capacity (the major driver of CAPEX).

    Married to this, networks must take a firmer line on so-called ‘super user abuse'. According to some operators, in some cells one in 800 users uses 10% of the total bandwidth mostly with video. Clearly bandwidth being throttled like this is unsustainable. Networks will have to monitor individual usage patterns and reallocate resource more strictly according to ‘fair use' with traffic shaping techniques and upselling of extra bandwidth.

    As has been noted co-opting Wi-Fi access points and incentivising their use is likely to form a major backbone of this brave new world. It also seems likely that operators will have to reengineer billing systems, perhaps eliminating unlimited data plans or introducing a cap on HD video downloading alone. Operators may also offer ‘premium data packages' with priority given to traffic for users who pay more or migrate HD video upload services to a transaction-based payment model.

    If the video tsunami teaches us anything, it's that operators and handset manufacturers must work closely together to develop smart solutions across both the network and handsets that will deliver the mobile video experience the consumer expects.