Video is the opiate of the networks

TV SET OFF

Just the other week I overheard two high-ranking broadcasting execs have the following conversation.

“It’s ironic, what I do for a living, you know, cos I haven’t actually owned a TV for decades.”

“Oh yeah,” agreed the other, wholeheartedly. “Don’t get high on your own supply.”

Of course recently, thanks to new networks such as LTE, we are increasingly guzzling video content on our smart phones and mobile devices as opposed to our television sets, something reflected in the upcoming Broadband World Forum, with its new ‘OTT & Video Management’ stream. But is the ability to take TV out of the house like this a good thing? As those execs seem to know better than most, their product can be very strong stuff. Indeed, its consumption has been linked to the following physical ravages (and this is just a sample)

  •          Heart disease
  •          Childhood obesity
  •          Impotence
  •          Diabetes
  •          Early death

Meanwhile, the spread of video on mobile networks is not vastly different to its effect on the human body…

“Video in itself is arguably the heaviest, and in some cases disruptive, service that you can have in any network,” explains Dimitris Mavrakis, principal analyst, Informa.  “Whether you’re talking about mobile or fixed, whether you’re talking about DSL, cable or LTE – and outside the US there is no additional revenue models or business models regarding video, particularly on mobile.”

Dimitris points out that a single video may be equivalent to thousands of voice calls in terms of traffic, and would generate a meagre fraction of the revenue for the operator.

“Video is a major headache for mobile operators and particularly for LTE,” he says. “If you have deployed a brand new network, you’ve paid billions for it, and you don’t want YouTube or Netflix delivering video over your network and degrading the user experience for other subscribers.”

Faced with this video onslaught, what are the operators supposed to do?

“Well they may barter with the content owners, but this is very limited. Only last month, AT&T’s CEO Raplh De La Vega said that Netflix needs to pay for capacity upgrades on their network, but if it was that simple everyone would do it. In the case of Netflix, where it is really heavy data, very heavy traffic, then it’s different.”

What about the much vaunted (in some quarters) notion of LTE broadcast? Does this provide the answer?

“From a technology perspective there’s little argument that the technology may be there. But perhaps what the industry is missing is a success story: where an operator deploys LTE broadcast they create value from it. It doesn’t have to be revenue it may be loyalty, it may be less churn to competition. But if that happens, and an operator may demonstrate tangible benefits from deploying LTE broadcast then, yes, perhaps the adoption of LTE broadcast may be accelerated.

“Ultimately, there are many ways to improve the experience. Optimization, video caching, bartering, and also LTE broadcasting, among others.”

All these approaches will be debated in depth within the ‘OTT & Video Management’ stream at the Broadband World Forum on the 23rd October. Yes, with a bit of ingenuity and resourcefulness, the networks might just be able to cope with the proliferation after all. Whether we’ll survive the extra dose, however, remains to be seen…

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