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What Mobile World Congress 2018 has to do with the future of video

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The booths in Barcelona have been packed away for another year and those delicious jamon sandwiches are rapidly becoming a distant memory. Which makes it the ideal time to look back at MWC 2018’s highlights and assess their future impact on our own industry.

The future of video is IP and mobile. For that reason, MWC is more than just another telco show, it’s another milestone in the journey towards the Connected Entertainment era.

So what did we see this year:

5G at the edge

5G was once again centre stage – and this year it felt as though we are finally within touching distance. While 5G connectivity will bring a quantum leap in mobile networks’ ability to deliver high quality video, the issue of latency still needs to be resolved if 5G is to deliver on the promise of a seamless viewing experience. This will require the mobile industry to embrace a more flexible, virtualised, software-defined mobile network infrastructure as well as mobile edge computing.

At the show Reliance Jio announced their intention to deploy multi-access edge computing to optimise and enhance the mobile video experience. The aim is to provide a better anytime/anywhere experience for users thanks to lower latency and higher performance.

 

Mobile devices as a video hub?

Mobile devices are already becoming a primary video screen for millennials – in the coming year far more consumers will own 4K-capable mobile devices than 4K-capable TVs. New 4K-capable mobile devices as well as phones like the Vivo Apex, which is almost completely bezel-less, were big news at the show. Also interesting was the Android Go initiative, which aims to put Android onto low-cost $150 phones that are as feature rich as the Samsung Galaxy 8.

Making feature-rich phones more accessible price-wise, and boosting the display on high-end models all point to a further change in the way we will consume video content in the near future. In just a couple of years from now there will be more connected video devices than people on our planet. Many of these will be mobile devices.

We can clearly see a future where high-end mobile devices loaded with powerful CPUs and graphics processors and oodles of storage are used as a content hub in the home. Connecting these devices to the TV in the evening using casting technologies that are already available will give consumers a fantastic big-screen entertainment experience.

 

Who will be the content aggregators?

One of the burning issues on the lips of many mobile operators at the show concerns their role in the new world of connected entertainment. Are they going to be relegated to a data pipe, or can they step up to own the consumer video experience and enjoy the benefits of stickiness, increased ARPU and multiple product bundles?

My guess is that the fragmentation we have experienced in video services due to the proliferation of D2C OTT offerings will result in a backlash. While today millennials may favour disaggregation and subscribe to three or four OTT services, consumers’ desire for convenience – a one-stop shop for their video content – will ultimately win out.

Assuming the content licensing economics add up, there is a real opportunity for mobile operators to position themselves as ‘super’ content aggregators: making it easy for subscribers to access and discover highly personalised content from the likes of Netflix, YouTube and other live channels.  As an example, Vodafone is already moving down this path. It offers subscribers in Spain, New Zealand and Italy a TV service that aggregates local live content and third-party OTT content into a single user interface with cross-service search capabilities built in.

 

AI, Big Data and other buzzwords

Buzzwords aside, here’s a given: to stay relevant TV will have to become more data driven. The mobile industry has all the tools to help TV make that leap: telcos hold vast amounts of data, they are already adopting big data technologies, they have the infrastructure to process all of this data, and they serve highly personalised end points. The intersection of mobile with Big Data, AI and machine learning – some of the big topics discussed at this year’s event – will bring about the next wave of connected entertainment features such as voice-activated personalisation.

We’ll use voice not only to navigate mobile-based TV interfaces, but also to communicate with a real-time machine learning system about our tastes and preferences.  All the metadata surrounding the video will be personalised, allowing us to experience personalised content journeys. This might include having a conversation with a chatbot on your mobile to help you find something you want to watch, or the chatbot reminding you that your favourite football team is playing live on TV right now.

 

As we look back at MWC 2018 and look forward to IBC, it is clear that the next phase of TV – or as we like to call it ‘connected entertainment’ – is starting to emerge. And we’d better be ready as it’s going to arrive faster than we think!


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