Top 3 mobile data trends to watch for in 2018
By Indranil Chatterjee, SVP of Product & Sales at Openwave Mobility
As the long-awaited transition to 5G becomes more fact than fiction in 2018, the potential for faster data speeds will compound the already high demand for mobile data. In fact, mobile data traffic increased by a whopping 115% worldwide from 2016 to 2017, according to Strategy Analytics.Yet, while the sheer volume of traffic creates significant challenges for network management, the quantity of data is not the biggest issue mobile operators have to face in 2018 — rather, it’s the type of content that makes up this data stream.
This point was clearly demonstrated in the Mobile Video Index, a recent research report issued by Openwave Mobility that examines the impact of video demand and data encryption on today’s mobile networks. The report was based on data aggregated from live deployments in more than 30 mobile networks around the world between 2013 and 2017. Analysis of our research highlighted three top trends in mobile data that will continue to have a sizeable impact on network performance in 2018, and for the foreseeable future.
Trend 1: Video is the conquering emperor!
The explosion of video on the internet has captured the attention of consumers across the globe, creating a vicious circle that feeds the demand for ever more video content. Mobile subscribers can’t get enough of watching their favorite videos on smartphones and other mobile devices. According to our analysis of operator networks, video already represents 58% of traffic by volume in mobile networks worldwide today.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. With no shortage of online video content, we anticipate the percentage of mobile video traffic to grow to approximately 62% within a year, pushing many networks nearly to the breaking point and impacting subscriber Quality of Experience (QoE). Studies show that, on average, subscribers are only willing to wait six seconds for a video to load, and they have no patience for poor streaming quality. What’s more, most subscribers blame their mobile operator for poor video performance, not the content provider. And as we all know too well, poor QoE quickly leads to churn.
Trend 2: Buckle up for faster flowing HD video streams
As consumers have become accustomed to watching high definition (HD) video at home, they expect to enjoy the same content on the go. Today, more than 820 million people worldwide watch Over The Top (OTT) streaming video services such as YouTube and Netflix on their mobile devices. While HD video made up only 5.7% of mobile video traffic just four years ago, that figure is now 38%, and HD video is expected to reach at least 50% of all mobile video traffic by the end of 2018. Of course, those subscribers who watch HD or even 4K videos at home without stutter or buffering are bringing those same quality expectations to the mobile network.
This shift to HD video has a definite effect on bandwidth utilization, since HD video consumes three to four times the bandwidth of a standard definition video, throttling the network and wreaking havoc on video QoE. Unfortunately, the trend of mobile video resolution moving to HD and beyond is not slowing down anytime soon, thanks to a proliferation of new and more efficient codecs and video hardware acceleration in mobile devices, higher quality displays and phone cameras, as well as extensive use of social media sharing services.
Source: Mobile Video Index
Trend 3: Darkness descends on (more) operator networks
Beyond the challenge of managing more and more HD video traffic on the network, mobile operators need to contend with a world that is growing dimmer. According to the Mobile Video Index findings, as much as 75% of all mobile traffic is now encrypted. This is due to several factors, including the fact that Google’s QUIC protocol has grown at an astonishing compound annual growth rate of 284% in two years, and UDP-based (User Datagram Protocol) encryption also has grown faster than anyone could have predicted. To make matters worse, Facebook has introduced an encryption protocol as well, known as Zero Protocol (0-RTT) that is likely to take off just as quickly. As a result, encrypted traffic is projected to reach 90% by year’s end.
The spread of encrypted content prevents operators from gaining visibility into mobile traffic, effectively darkening the network. This means that mobile operators cannot troubleshoot subscriber quality issues, such a buffering or stuttering video, if they cannot “see” the traffic on their network. In other words, it is nearly impossible to manage subscriber QoE, particularly with conventional mobile optimization tools.
With the demand for rich video content driving mobile data consumption ever higher to dizzying heights, 2018 will present greater challenges to mobile operators everywhere. Netflix plans to invest more in new and original content, and Disney is preparing to introduce its own streaming services. A steady influx of new OTT content means the percentage of HD video and encrypted traffic flowing through mobile networks will continue to climb.
As 5G networks begin to take shape this year, the full impact on the quantity and quality of mobile data is yet to be seen. But one thing is certain — to stay at the top of their game, mobile operators need to take action now to prepare their networks to handle even more streaming video traffic without sacrificing subscriber QoE.
Source: Mobile Video Index
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