Optimizing Video In The Era Of Streaming Wars

By: Indranil Chatterjee

The promise of increased bandwidth and low latency made possible by 5G networks is contributing to a massive increase in the development of new mobile video technologies and streaming services designed specifically for 5G networks. But even as excitement builds among mobile operators over the revenue potential from new 5G video services, they also have to account for the new challenges those services will create. And while video will become even more important in a 5G network, the types of video supported will change dramatically.

For instance, while mobile gaming currently has little impact on existing mobile networks, 5G networks will fully empower cloud gaming services such as Google Stadia, further driving a demand for high-definition video delivered without buffering or stalling. To support this, operator networks will need the ability to support three to four times more bandwidth compared to typical usage today. Crucially, this video will need to be delivered at latencies of a few milliseconds to enable an authentic gaming experience. All in all, mobile video will account for as much as 90 percent of 5G traffic, driven by gaming and increased video streaming as well as more esoteric uses of video such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality. We will see the continued battle between Moore’s law (processor capacity doubling every 18 months) with devices getting smarter and consuming more HD, AR, VR videos and Shannon’s law, (bits per hertz over the air) which will allow more data speeds and capacity delivered over 5G networks.

History so far has shown that Moore’s law outpaces Shannon’s law, creating significant challenges for operators in terms of congestion in their networks. To add to this challenge, because mobile data traffic patterns are so irregular, capacity planning—even with cloudification of their networks—will remain a challenge, as total mobile data volumes being carried by these networks continue to double every six to 12 months. As an example, a HD video on average requires up to four times more bandwidth than standard video and encrypted over-the-top (OTT) traffic. An Augmented Reality video, which will become a reality with 5G rollout, has an even bigger appetite for network resources, consuming three to five times the volume of a similar-length HD video.

Another key quality metric is driven by the fact that consumers tend to base their concept of video quality on the length of time it takes for the video to start playing. The majority of consumers won’t wait longer than six seconds for video delivery to their mobile device, yet the average buffering time in a mobile network is seven seconds. As such, operators are having to walk a fine line between video picture quality (definition) and video delivery quality (latency).

The question for mobile operators, then, is how to ensure their 5G networks are optimized to meet the huge demands that video streaming applications will create.

What’s Being Streamed?

By next year, more than 100 million consumers are expected to shop online using augmented reality (AR), enabling them to visualize products in different settings, and giving retailers the opportunity to individualize customer experience. Research indicates, in fact, that almost 50 percent of retailers plan to deploy AR or virtual reality (VR) solutions to amp up customer experience by next year.

Meanwhile, the video streaming wars, triggered by the huge success of Netflix, have reached epic proportions. One of the latest announcements from AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia—as well as its own 5G network—is the planned launch next year of a new streaming environment, dubbed HBO Max. In addition to housing 10,000 hours of content at launch, including Friends and Doctor Who (which it will feature exclusively), it will feature the DC Extended Universe superhero movies and The Lord of the Rings franchise.

HBO Max joins a plethora of streaming services that recently have hit the market or that are expected shortly. Although specific details still are lacking, Apple TV Plus is expected in November at $10 per month and will feature unique content specifically created by Apple, which has reportedly budgeted $6 billion to promote the service. Disney announced it is bundling Disney+, ESPN and Hulu for the same monthly subscription that Netflix currently charges. And the video streaming market is becoming even more crowded by new entrants like BritBox, a venture from BBC and ITV that features British television shows.

Netflix, once the reigning king of streaming as noted above, lost the right to offer flagship content, including the full range of Disney and Marvel titles, partially resulting in its loss of 130,000 US subscribers. That’s the biggest loss of customers Netflix has experienced since 2011, when it split its streaming and mail delivery businesses. Moreover, Netflix signed up only 2.8 million subscribers internationally, about half of what it predicted for the year.


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