Giraffic speaks at the 20th Connections US Conference by Parks Associates

May 30, 2016

Noam Geri, Giraffic VP Sales & Business Development, North America

Last week Giraffic was invited to speak at the annual Connections US conference in San-Francisco, covering the state of the connected home industry and its future developments.
I had a chance to participate in a fascinating panel discussion, dealing with one of the most trending topics- Virtual Reality, alongside Paul T. Kim, Director, Content & Services from Samsung and Danny Vossen, Director Innovation & Strategic Partnerships from Technicolor.

During the discussion we addressed the challenges of VR adoption and its mass market penetration, as well as the obstacles of delivering VR content, which demands high bandwidth, to consumer homes and mobile devices.
We discussed how a majority of VR content is initially consumed on low-cost smartphone-based VR devices, and as such, content delivery is one of the greatest challenges of VR.


Buffering and low resolution will severely detract from the VR experience since in order for the virtual to become the reality, the experience can be immersive only with sharp and high-resolution image and seamless playback.


The panelists were all in consensus that VR is not a just a temporary hype and will continue to grow. Recent study from Parks Associates revealed that 2.3M households in US already own a VR headset, so we will continue to see more companies introducing supporting devices and related technologies. Gaming applications are a major driver of VR adoption, as well as the widely popular 360 videos that are available online, including a lot of user generated content.
Connections conference celebrated its 20th anniversary. It has expanded its focus over the years, covering a wide array of topics relating to the connected home, including smart-home, IoT, content delivery as well as wearables and connected cars.

To find out more about out insights on the topic, visit our post on Parks Associates Industry Insights blog.

Video Quality Throttling on Mobile – Is It Really Just About the Data Plan Caps?

April 27, 2016

Inna Zagrebelny, Marketing Manager, Giraffic

 

Other evidence suggests that it might also be about bandwidth congestion

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When WSJ reported that for the past 5 years Netflix has been sending lower quality content to mobile users, it resulted in a huge public outrage. After all, AT&T and Verizon subscribers felt misled by the content provider who was actually pushing lower resolution video despite the purchased quality.

Sounds familiar right? Because it reminds T-Mobile’s bold move with BingeOn, limiting the video quality to 480p to its users, and not calling it “throttling” per-se, rather an optimization, under the same excuse of data caps. Called out by the EFF for throttling the internet speeds to 1.5Mbps for all HTML5 video streams (even for content sources that did not enroll the program), T-Mobile had no choice than to pointing out that the users can manually cancel the limitation, and the company’s intent was to provide “a feature that helps you stretch your data bucket by optimizing ALL of your video for your mobile devices.

But is it really about data caps? Or net neutrality?  There are two additional forces:

Over-the-Top (OTT) content providers aim to deliver a superior user experience, similar to what you’d expect from broadcast TV. Great content selection matters, but so does reputation. If Netflix starts pushing heavy content down the mobile networks, and the networks fail to deliver smooth playback, frustrated consumers will likely blame Netflix for the infamous spinning circle on their screen, and not their ISP. Perhaps Netflix just doesn’t have confidence in today’s congested networks. Thus, to gain more control and assure smoother viewing experiences, it delivers lower video qualities that will reduce the load on the networks.

Based on this logic, the quality must be limited, otherwise the mobile networks won’t be able to perform efficiently and will fail to deliver the expected user experience. ISPs can’t openly do this as they are bound by regulators and frequently find themselves under some kind net neutrality investigation- but Netflix can.

From the mobile network side, this is also one of the reasons that T-Mobile limits the quality by default for all video streams once you have BingeOn. Are there any additional reasons for the so called “data cap” excuse? Once the subscriber consumes their entire data allowance and gets hit with a fee, they’ll likely call customer service and will increase their plan, which means more revenue for the company.

However, there is catch to it- without expanding existing network infrastructure, the more data subscribers consume, the more loaded and jumpy the networks get. As a service provider, T-Mobile cares about its network stability and a massive networks upgrade, to put it simply, will cost them a lot.  

According to last Ericsson’s Mobility report, video accounts for almost half of the mobile data traffic, and is the key factor fueling the constant increase in data consumption. The data caps are calculated on a monthly basis, but do they consider the congestion issues during peak hours? In theory, consumers with unlimited data plans can stream 1080p or QHD to their phone- but what will happen if everyone has unlimited plans? The networks will collapse.

Limiting video resolution is a win-win for content providers and the ISPs. The content providers get to keep to their good reputation and the networks don’t have to invest heavily in infrastructure upgrades.

But consumers- are you really getting what you are paying for?

#SaveOurStreaming Twitter Roundtable Chat Wrap-Up

March 16, 2016

Last week, we hosted our second Twitter Roundtable. Last time we pondered the future of 4K and UHD, and now turned our focus to the state of mobile streaming following many of the hot button topics discussed at Mobile World Congress. Joining the chat was our CEO and founder, Yoel Zanger, and other experts in the field of mobile and streaming including Troy Dreier of StreamingMedia.com, Wei Shi and Sue Rudd from Strategy Analytics, Ryan Jespersen of Wowza, Samantha Bookman from FierceOnlineVideo (whom we thank for participating in both of our roundtables), and Jeffrey Powers, of Geekazine.com.

The overall consensus was that bandwidth concerns impact every point in the streaming video chain. This includes content creation, content distribution, mobile networks and even devices themselves. Most didn’t think 4K is necessarily important for small screen mobile devices, and the priority is a clean stream – not necessarily the prettiest one. Perhaps 4K wasn’t a huge topic at MWC for just that reason.

However, points were raised that mobile doesn’t even play HD well either – which will be a problem. Live streaming and VOD came down to a bandwidth issues and whether or not networks can provide enough juice for growing user base and file sizes. Will consumers simply tolerate the hiccups for now? Most panelists agreed that consumers won’t accept poor quality experiences for much longer.

Just as at MWC, virtual reality became a big point of discussion. Buffering causes lag and lag can ruin an immersive experience. The participants felt that mobile networks were going to be the biggest issue in delivering VR; and of course, the availability of quality content.

The roundtable ended on 5G – will it meet the heavy expectations the different players in mobile are placing on it? Or, will it emanate the pitfalls of LTE, which many would argue have still yet to meet their initial expectations? Most of the participants were hopeful of the promise that 5G will provide a bigger pipe, but all agreed that the proof will be in seamless content delivery.

This conversation only broached the surface of what there is to talk about regarding innovations in the mobile streaming. Check out the entire stream below.

To learn more about our next Twitter Roundtable Chat, follow us @GirafficAVA for updates. Continue to contribute to the conversation using the #SaveOurStreaming.

Join Our Twitter Industry Round Table to Save our Streaming (S.O.S.)

March 7, 2016

A Discussion of the Trends and Technologies Impacting Mobile Video Quality floating-ring-160536_1280and Growth

  • Tuesday, March 9
  • 1-2:00 PM EST   
  • Hashtag: #SaveOurStreaming

More people are consuming more content on mobile devices. It seems reasonable that they should expect the same quality as they enjoy in their living rooms.

Yet some manufacturers are holding back on adding displays to mobile devices that match the resolution and quality of TVs. They may be waiting until 5G networks are in place – but this is not expected to be until 2020.

Mobile chipset providers are promoting support for 4K and VR, however they understand one the main challenges for its adoption is network readiness. They are introducing creative solutions, such as LTE Wi-Fi Link Aggregation (LWA) from Qualcomm.

Today’s 3G, 4G and broadband Wi-Fi networks can support much better quality. As we noted in our S.O.S. post, 4K on mobile doesn’t need more than 10Mbps – a speed that is within LTE network capabilities. But some continue to deliver mobile video in less than 1Mbps quality.

Is it about bandwidth, or perhaps consumers don’t care enough about quality on mobile to demand it from their service providers? What is needed to bring the pieces together and deliver the best quality video over mobile? To find out more and participate in the discussion, please join our round table.

The goal of this one-hour Twitter round table chat is to gather a wide range of expert opinions regarding the challenges and opportunities impacting the growth of mobile video. See our S.O.S. post for more information. Giraffic executives and range of industry thought leaders will take part in the Q & A.

We hope you will join us for what is sure to be a stimulating discussion. You can use TweetChat, HootSuite or TweetDeck in order to follow the conversation and participate. Simply enter the hashtag #SaveOurStreaming a few minutes before the start time, and the Giraffic moderator will make introductions and begin the session. Please make sure to include the hashtag with every tweet you post during the roundtable. Otherwise, your comment will not be seen by most other participants.

There’s an S.O.S. for Better Mobile Video

February 18, 2016

Will the Industry answer the call at Mobile World Congress?

By Yoel Zanger

Mobile devices are sporting higher quality displays.  Some carriers now offer all inclusive data floating-ring-160536_1280deals to encourage streaming, and mobile video consumption is growing. Yet the quality we enjoy on our TVs and desktops remains frustratingly out of reach on mobile.

The truth is that today’s 4G/LTE networks only show SD video, and users must settle for a less-than optimal experience, even though they bought a device that promises crisp image quality and faster connections.

Why the discrepancy between device capabilities and actual quality delivered? Because networks are congested, and the trend is only getting worse.

The streaming onslaught causes mobile network and Wi-Fi congestion, particularly for on-the-go users. It’s simple math. More people trying to access the network cause delays at the cell tower, base station or router.  This also means that a lot of time is sucked up by buffering, interruptions during cell hand-offs or waiting for downloads to finish. It appears that this growth in consumption always exceeds the infrastructure.

Carriers are doing their best, working hard to upgrade networks to 5G. CDNs offer some relief, but they only control part of the mobile video distribution chain. They cannot help with the last mile access network, peak hour congestion or crowded mobile networks, or with the home / campus WiFi congestion. And they cannot always cache all content that is out there.

Some operators throttle bitrates, and content providers may resort to adaptive streaming, i.e. switching quality levels (between HD, HD Ready and SD), according to the bandwidth that’s available. These approaches limit the quality of the video – meaning consumers can’t unlock the HD potential of their devices.

So, where does this leave device manufacturers, who want to enable the best quality and the fastest speeds to drive demand for their new devices,  but cannot control the network constraints?  As I wrote in my last post, 4K phones are hitting the market (e.g. the Sony Xperia Z Premium).  But Android Authority speculated  that Samsung and LG will not include these displays in their 2016 smartphones.  It would be a shame if the quality bottleneck also throttles innovation, as consumers are shifting viewing time to mobile devices – and clearly would enjoy higher quality.

The above article further states that “a 4K display is intrinsically linked to 4K content, which will largely require 5G network infrastructure.”  It should be possible to solve this, as LTE does allow 20-30Mbps and 4K on mobile probably doesn’t need more than 10Mbps.

Perhaps a way to bridge the gap is to involve the mobile device in pulling the data in a faster and more efficient manner, that will also be more network friendly.

The situation is less than ideal. We don’t need a life jacket yet, but the boat has too many leaks. The industry must find ways to “Save our Streaming” and improve QoS through network changes, application and CDN technologies, and efficient streaming technology on the mobile/tablet device.

So what does Giraffic plan to help the industry answer the S.O.S? We can’t show all our cards just yet :), but I urge you to stay tuned to MWC announcements and stop by if you will be in Barcelona next week.

Giraffic demos take place at the IMA pavilion, Hall 2, booth #2D60 (by appointment only). To schedule a demo of Mobile AVA, please contact: inna@giraffic.com.