Irecently returned from GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, and was disap- pointed by the complete lack of vendors and
messaging to address streaming video. None of
the operator booths had sections set up to talk
about streaming, or video delivery, or solving
network congestion to ensure a great end-user
video experience. In contrast, there was lots of
5G technology and messaging, lots of PR around
the Internet of Things (and, guilty by association, lots of talk about edge computing), but almost nothing about streaming. Oh, and yeah,
and there was some occasional stuff about VR
thrown in. This, despite the industry being littered with indicators that the small screen is
where viewers are most interested in watching streaming video. Look no further than Cisco’s annual Visual Networking Index report, the
most recent installment of which predicts that
by 2021, 78% of all mobile traffic will be video.
Punctuating that is Openwave Mobility’s “
Mobile Video Index” research, which indicates that
nearly 40% of that mobile video traffic is HD.
So why aren’t European mobile operators
putting more emphasis on the streaming video
experiences that subscribers can get through
their networks? Why aren’t they touting LTE
Broadcast? Why aren’t they looking to better
network management to alleviate traffic con-
gestion and to promote higher bitrate delivery?
Where’s the talk about streaming? I couldn’t
figure out the answer at first, especially in light
of the stark contrast to their North American
counterparts who seem to have made a major
commitment to online video, evidenced by the
proliferation of unlimited data plans designed
to cater to consumers eager to stream Netflix,
Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and other over-
the-top (OTT) alternatives. In fact, many of the
North American mobile plans specifically call
out capabilities to stream HD-quality video (al-
though most carriers will throttle video speeds
when the network is congested, or when a user
consumes an egregious amount of data). Many
operators, such as T-Mobile (with its acquisi-
tion of Layer3 TV), AT&T (with its acquisition of
DIRECTV and the launch of DIRECTV NOW),
and Verizon are making acquisitions and in-
frastructure commitments to ensure they can
meet viewer demand for streaming.
Perhaps European consumer attitudes about
online video are different than North Ameri-
cans’? But, again, industry predictors seem to
speak to the growth of video consumption on
smartphones. As an example, according to the
report “Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Sur-
vey: The Nordic Cut 2017,” approximately 80%
of Nordic smartphone users are watching short-
form videos weekly, while 38% are watching
movies and TV. And I did find that some Europe-
an operators, like Deutsche Telekom in Germa-
ny, are specifically touting their services’ ability
to provide live TV, sports, and on-demand video.
But others, like EE in the U.K., hardly mention it.
Again, this is in sharp contrast to North Ameri-
can operators that often put live TV, HD-quality
video, or other streaming service capabilities
right on the front pages of their websites.
And then I came across an interesting CNBC
article indicating that Europe could fall behind
the U.S. and China in the race to deploy 5G—a
much-heralded solution to the mobile streaming
video congestion issues plaguing mobile opera-
tors today. According to the author, Arjun Khar-
pal, Europe’s sluggishness regarding spectrum
allocation might delay rollout. This, again, is in
stark contrast to the North American launch of
5G—AT&T, for example, has already announced
plans to launch in a dozen test markets in 2018.
T-Mobile and Verizon won’t be far behind, put-
ting the North American operators in an even
better position to provide great streaming video
experiences to their subscribers.
Consumers worldwide are demanding
streaming video from their mobile devices and
networks. That much is clear. European opera-
tors can’t fall behind in how they position their
networks to meet this demand if online video
is truly to supplant traditional broadcast. We
all need to be on the same page.
Hey, European Mobile Operators!
What About Streaming Video?
Jason Thibeault is the executive director of the Streaming Video
Alliance. Follow him on Twitter @_jasonthibeault.
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