Video data traffic has been the thorn in mobile operators’ sides for some time – with issues surrounding how to provide high quality video, without compromising other subscribers’ data usage and the video experience itself. Initially, operators sought out video optimization as a blunt instrument to simply cut down the amount of video traffic across the network. By doing this the quality of all video services was compromised – it was a quick fix to a complicated problem.
However, since then video optimization has evolved from the blanket solution it once was and has become more flexible, with intelligent congestion-aware solutions capable of significantly improving subscriber’s Quality of Experience (QoE).
How video optimization has evolved
These congestion-aware solutions allow mobile operators to manage data traffic in localized “hotspots” as it occurs - rather than merely compressing all video data on the network all of the time. The solutions can allow operators to gain a clear understanding of network traffic and subscriber patterns, and then quickly react to any congestion. This effectively means that the video optimization can be “switched on” in areas of high congestion, allowing non-congested areas to run freely and ensuring a high QoE for the user.
Beyond that, it is even possible for the most advanced solutions to specifically measure the QoE of each video flow and, if any buffering or stuttering is detected, then optimization automatically kicks in mid-stream to rectify the situation and ensure a smooth video playback. In other words it removes the bumps and potholes but doesn’t touch the road if the traffic is flowing smoothly.
During large events video optimization can play a pivotal role. As mobile devices have become more advanced, consumers use video more and more. The concept of “citizen journalism” has taken off, with more subscribers documenting events in-real time and streaming videos from other budding journalists.
According to Reuters operators saw a huge spike in mobile data traffic during the London 2012 Olympics, as subscribers took to their phones and tablets to watch events and keep updated on the medal tables. Figures showed that data traffic from the Olympic Park alone accounted for 8 per cent of the capital’s total consumption during the games – and this was just one amongst numerous venues.
This resulting surge in video data traffic in the areas surrounding venues during all large events, as end-users stream video footage, means for mobile operators to meet demand, without compromising the visual experience - video optimization is essential. By using intelligent, congestion-aware, solutions mobile operators can ensure that the video experience is consistent in these areas without compromising the provision of data across the network.
How this improves subscriber Quality of Experience
Congestion-aware solutions, or smart solutions, enhance the end-user experience by matching the available network resources with the video being played. This in turn reduces irritating buffering, allowing for a smoother uninterrupted viewing experience.
Video optimization solutions which target congestion hotspots rather than blanketing the entire network, also mean that video data is not unnecessarily squeezed across the entire network. Essentially mobile operators no longer have to compromise on the viewing experience in order to meet demand - a buffer-free experience.
The effects on mobile operators
Intelligent video optimization effectively creates a win-win situation for mobile operators and their subscribers. Mobile operators can win by extending the lifetime of their existing network investment by smoothing out peaks in traffic. They also have the benefit of working in the background, activating only when needed, which significantly reduces the amount of hardware needed to run the video optimization. Subscribers win with an improved quality of experience for video playback.
It is undeniable that as mobile devices and services evolve, mobile operators are going to have to cope with the increasing data demands. As more and more mobile devices gain the ability to record and stream video of High Definition quality, and eventually 3D, intelligent video optimization solutions will allow mobile operators to stay one step ahead of subscriber demand.
*Indranil Chatterjee has over 15 years of experience in product management, marketing, strategy and software development in the telecommunications and IT industries. Prior to Openwave, Indranil was with Syniverse Technologies where he was director of product management and responsible for New Product Development for wireless applications and mobile analytics. Prior to joining Syniverse, he served as Director of Wireless Solutions for Alcatel-Lucent. Indranil has participated in numerous telecom industry events as a panel member and speaker.