Mobile video streaming, also known as mobile TV, has been promoted by mobile network operators as one of the prime benefits of more capable infrastructure resulting from networks being upgraded with HSPA and LTE technologies. These upgrades enable subscribers to view streaming content on the go, with content less subject to outages and failed connections. However, until recently the platform had not caught the public’s attention, despite the introduction of unmetered access and generous data caps.
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) initially failed to develop the right business models to deliver the type of content suitable for mobile streaming. It was also uncertain whether customers would want to pay for content at all, given the small size of screens when mobile streaming was initially promoted. However, in recent months the popularity of phablets and of larger screened smartphones has helped address these limitations. In addition, the development of new technologies such as out LTE-Broadcast (from Telstra) will make the delivery of mobile streaming more efficient on a technical level, while the ability of people to view content from Netflix and other OTT services via mobile devices has made the format more attractive. Indeed, by early 2015 up to a third of all viewing was done via tablets and phablets.
With the explosion of video streaming over mobile networks, LTE –assisted with WiFi tails – is becoming essential. Already LTE extensions – also known as 4½G – are being implemented before 5G becomes commercially available around 2020.
The three LTE networks operated by Optus, Telstra and Vodafone have developed rapidly during the past two years as these players strive to provide an infrastructure capable of meetings customer demand for mobile broadband services. As well as aiming to attract new customers, these players are also trying to reduce churn – the experiences of Vodafone in recent years has shown how damaging it can be for an operator when their networks do not provide reliability and, increasingly in an era leaning further to mobile data than voice, sufficient performance.
Technological developments have also progressed, with operators using aggregated channels to improve data throughput. Since the beginning of 2015 Optus and Telstra have been able to utilise their 700MHz spectrum assets, with which they aim to provide about 98% population coverage by the end of 2016. Vodafone is relying on upgrades to its existing concessions, and by mid-2015 it provided about 95% coverage in metro areas.
These upgraded networks face daunting data demands from customers, many of whom make use of data-intensive graphics, videos and files shared across the networks. In addition, popular OTT services such as Netflix, a company which alone had attracted about one million customers since launching in Australia in March 2015, provide streaming of content over mobile devices. While networks can at times be strained, the MNOs are continually adding capabilities and applications in an effort to reduce their overall costings. Customer preference for WiFi from homes and workplaces has meant that mobile broadband traffic is largely offloaded to fixed-line infrastructure.
Henry Lancaster, Senior Analyst BuddeComm
BuddeComm recently published a new report on the mobile broadband market: Australia – Mobile Broadband Market – Services and Apps – 2015
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