Home Analysis Managing mobile video: Are network operators flying blind?

Managing mobile video: Are network operators flying blind?

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By Nitin Bhandari, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Skyfire

In today’s “mobile first” world, consumers expect to access and enjoy their favourite media, including video, on any device, at any time. Meeting this expectation, and in particular, ensuring an excellent customer experience for mobile video, is today therefore an essential part of a mobile operator’s network traffic management responsibilities.

Yet when it comes to understanding the impact that video traffic is having on their networks, operators only have unpredictable data from varied inputs to rely on at the moment. They struggle to see what video traffic is crossing the network – and where any problems in its delivery are occurring. They truly are flying blind. What operators lack is the ability to monitor and analyse video traffic that allows them to “see” how the network is performing in real time, in an easy to understand way.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

According to Cisco, mobile video will grow at a CAGR of 69 percent between 2013 and 2018, the highest growth rate of any mobile application category that Cisco has forecasted, other than machine-to-machine traffic.

As more people continue to access YouTube, Instagram, Vine and other high-bandwidth video apps on their mobile devices (to say nothing of viral third-party OTT services only now gestating in lines of code), the resulting rise in mobile video traffic is posing a variety of challenges to operators – not only network capacity and the quality of service for subscribers, but also the cost structure behind the network.

One way for operators to address these challenges is to deploy a mobile video analytics dashboard that allows them visualise the traffic as it happens. Real-time analytics not only lets operators see where the biggest problems lie on the network, but also allows them to identify which third-party providers are providing the content – and make adjustments in their mobile video optimization platforms accordingly.

Seeing the problem and solving it

The ability to access important data, such as stall rates, video start times, and bitrate distribution from a single, centralised location means the operator can quickly identify where and when mobile video traffic is affecting performance. It can then analyse the cause of the problem, and apply a solution to fix it in an efficient and timely way.

Joe Hoffman, Practice Director at ABI Research, makes it clear how important it is for operators to invest in a system that provides real-time, real-world perspective of video on the mobile network. “Video optimisation solutions have to get the analytics right and deliver them with a user-friendly dashboard. Otherwise, operators will seek different solutions when they comprehend the money that is left on the table.”

Quality of experience

Until now, video traffic management analytics have been limited to packet- or URL-level data. These were often a poor metric for application session quality, and didn’t allow for session mitigation actions in real time. With an analytics system in place, operators can easily see the impact of mobile video. This information can be as granular as being down to individual subscribers and their anonymised location in the network.

Giving operators the means to make quick decisions about how and when to deploy mobile video optimisation solutions ensures that users can stream video over the network easily. It’s clear to operators that not measuring these items in detail is simply no longer an option. In 2014, video stall rates are definitely the one KPI that a mobile operator should never be without.

Operators no longer have to watch impassively as their 3G and 4G networks fill up with user-generated and third-party video. As mobile video grows in popularity, operators at last have the means to see what’s truly going on. They can deliver an attractive and compelling user experience that doesn’t compromise quality of service nor the performance of the network.

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