Kristen Raybould, Product Marketing – Emerging Mobile Business Unit, Akamai Technologies
With the capabilities of smartphones, tablets, and smart-machines becoming more advanced, consumers are using their mobile devices to handle more data intensive operations. According to Akamai’s Q4/2014 State of the Internet Report, mobile data usage grew 11 percent quarter over quarter and 54 percent year over year.
One of the main factors for this expansion is the growing amount of video content being transported over the Internet and across mobile networks. Mobile subscribers are viewing more videos on their mobile device and expecting a better viewing experience. As a result, delivering high-quality video downloads and streaming to the mobile subscriber is quickly becoming a business imperative for mobile network operators (MNOs) and media companies alike.
Everyone in the mobile video ecosystem has a stake in optimizing video delivery to mobile devices across the cellular network because slow startup times or buffering will deter viewership and result in abandonment. Given this, it is important for MNOs to seek out partners and solutions to provide a high-quality experience for subscribers with access to mobile Internet video at anytime, anywhere.
Challenges MNOs face with delivering video content
Mobile network conditions constantly fluctuate. At any given moment, some part of a MNO’s customer base may be experiencing poor video quality based on the changing nature of the radio access network. While some subscribers on a cell site may have a good experience, others may not. In particular, it is challenging to manage the network capacity required for HD video delivery.
Mobile users are empowered by and require an on-demand experience every time they use their mobile device. They desire a better and more consistent mobile viewing experience and suboptimal video playback negatively affects their overall perception of the content owner’s brand. Providing a video experience that constantly meets subscriber expectations requires an ongoing investment in spectrum and capacity management. One solution to help MNOs reduce network congestion is to implement a predictive element – understanding what the individual mobile subscriber is interested in viewing, as well as identifying the cell site congestion levels and adjusting delivery based on this knowledge.
To explain this concept further, mobile networks are built to handle peak traffic. When looking at factors like radio access networks and a particular cell site, MNOs can see they need a certain amount of capacity during the peak hours at that site because everyone in that geographic area is online, moving from work Wi-Fi access to mobile devices, taking up cellular capacity. In between a spike like the evening and morning commutes, there are valleys of unused network capacity. Optimizing mobile video traffic by pre-positioning content to the mobile device during the valleys or when connected to Wi-Fi, MNOs can deliver high bitrate video content to the mobile subscriber when capacity is readily available. Providing the best possible viewing experience even during peak congestion times with no buffering or stalling while also managing the spikes in congestion, leveling off the peaks and the valleys of network capacity.
How to deliver a premium video experience
With no external way to control radio access congestion, MNOs must balance capacity and data traffic growth while identifying areas for revenue growth. Implementing an intelligent traffic optimization solution that addresses these challenges can effect changes in mobile user behavior and provide new revenue streams throughout the mobile video ecosystem. For example, using predictive analytics to customize content for each unique user and pre-position that content to mobile devices during off-peak hours or when a strong Wi-Fi signal is available. This method makes personalized videos available to each individual mobile subscriber that will launch on-demand with no buffering or stalling, providing a superior viewing experience any time of day and in any cellular network situation.
Remove the silos of video delivery
Leveraging this type of solution provides additional benefits to the MNO, video content provider, and consumer, including:
- The ability to deliver high bitrate video. MNOs can make use of cellular load prediction and mobile device storage to pre-position videos to the mobile subscriber’s device using off-peak cellular capacity or a Wi-Fi connection. The videos are made available to a mobile subscriber to watch at their convenience – anywhere they want, at any time they want. The videos are stored on the mobile device and available to launch immediately upon request with no buffering, stalling, or slow playback to irritate the viewer.
- Provide personalized experiences. Everyone is on information overload, constantly discovering new videos via social sharing. With predictive analytics, MNOs can give consumers the kind of content they want to see based on what they know that consumer enjoys viewing, differentiating their level of service from other MNOs. This also helps lessen the delivery of unwanted and thus, unwatched videos.
- Ensure fresh content. When a consumer continues to download or view content on a mobile device, eventually storage will be blocked, preventing that consumer from being able to snap a photo when they want or immediately view a file from work. A predictive analytics solution takes the worry out of getting rid of old videos. It enables the MNO to provide fresh content the consumer wants to see by sweeping away the old content that the consumer already watched.
The challenges MNOs face today present a unique opportunity to provide a differentiated service to mobile subscribers through the delivery of high-quality video content. By using predictive analytics to recommend personalized content for each unique user and pre-positioning that content to mobile devices, MNOs can deliver a superior video experience, manage peak congestion and generate revenue, all while building subscriber loyalty.
About the Author
Kristen Raybould is tasked with developing best practices for optimizing mobile traffic delivery and monetizing the mobile network with Akamai’s Emerging Mobile BU, which is focused on developing new and unique solutions for mobile network operators.