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

February 18, 2016 4:22 pm

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.