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Saturday, June 19, 2021
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State of Mobile Video (Part 2)

Wacky Tech

Last week, I shared highlights of OpenSignal’s recent report on the state of mobile video. Hit the link to get a refresher on that piece.

This week, I’ll dive a bit more into the four things highlighted by OpenSignal from that report;

1. Many countries provide a Very Good video experience.

2. European countries top our mobile video chart.

3. The fastest country doesn't offer the best mobile video quality.

4. The relationship between speed and video experience is complicated.

My take away from the four key highlights is that there’s a very big room to improve when it comes to mobile video. I still think it’s state is in its infancy. And as more and more people tend to watch video content while on the movie, there’s going to be room for technology to grow to be able to serve mobile video content in a reliable and speedy manner.

I’m not surprised that most of the the top performing countries are in the EU plus one from the Middle East and one from Southeast Asia. These, to me, are countries that have the resources to push forward the development of their cellular networks and probably even adopt new technologies as soon as they are available. I won’t try to get into details into each one of those top 10 or top 11 countries. But I will, at least, say that they are in the bleeding edge of cellular networks and mobile data connectivity.

Speed isn’t everything

Totally self explanatory. In the case of mobile video, a high speed internet connection doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to watch 4K quality video all the time. Here’s how OpenSignal explains this:

South Korea is the prime example. With an overall download speed of 45.6 Mbps, it was the fastest of the 69 countries by quite some margin. Yet South Korea was well short of the top mark in video experience. It didn't even make the cut of 11 countries in our Very Good ratings. Rather it landed in the Good tier, right alongside several countries with nowhere near the sheer mobile broadband might of the East Asian 4G powerhouse. Kuwait's average download speed was a mere 14.7 Mbps, but it was nearly level with South Korea in video experience. Clearly a good video experience is dependent on more than a lightning-fast mobile connection.

So if raw average throughput isn't determining the quality of experience in faster countries, then what is? Latency, which measures the response time of a network, has a big impact on our video experience metric, as the longer a device waits to hear back from the video server, the longer it takes for the video to load and begin playing. Consistency of connection speed is also an important factor. A super-fast connection isn't necessary to stream video over mobile networks, but a video needs relatively consistent throughput to avoid stalling. Thus a network that delivers a 50-Mbps connection one second and a 2 Mbps connection the following second is likely to provide an inferior overall video experience than a network that can maintain a constant 20 Mbps connection over a long duration of time. Maintaining consistent speeds isn't an easy thing for a mobile operator due to the nature of cellular networking.

Out of those two paragraphs from the report, we can basically highlight two important factors - latency and consistency.

Latency

Even if your mobile network delivers super fast speed in a given time but the overall network fails to respond on time when it’s needed, there’s going to be a problem. Each time you click or tap on a video link, your mobile device or browser or app sends out a request to the website to start delivering (playing) the video content. If the network you’re on do not respond right away, that request to play or deliver will not get to the video source right away. As a result, delayed playback or buffering video or, worse, you’ll wait for it to load first before you can even play one second.

Consistency

Apart from your mobile network being responsive whenever you send a request to watch a video or just regularly browse the web, there’s also the consistency of the speed. Think of it this way; it’s like you’re entering a 6-lane expressway and after a kilometer, it narrows down to a 2-lane highway for the next 10 kilometers then back to the 6-lane highway for a short period of time and back again. If you can imagine yourself getting annoyed if this was happening in a real life expressway, it will be equally annoying in the internet expressway.

And the future?

It’s anyone’s guess how things will turn out in the case of mobile video experience. Right now though, there’s the promise of 5G. What it is exactly? Here’s a video explanation from CNBC International.



5G as it stands now is still a long way from being fully implemented here in the Philippines. Heck, only one network implements VoLTE and that’s one piece of technology that I would really appreciate being implemented across the board. I wrote about that last year. Anyway, if and when 5G gets implemented in the country, those will be exciting times for multimedia content producers and for everybody else who’s doing something that will take advantage of faster speeds and more reliable mobile connections.


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