|Topic:||Bringing order to the mobile video exp|
Allan Benchetrit is President and CEO of Vantrix. Mr Benchetrit has over 20 years of experience in the Information, Communication and Technology industry. He began his career in 1987 as an account manager for Dun & Bradstreet before receiving a graduate degree in business. He went on to hold sales, marketing, and executive management positions at HP, Oracle, and Wysdom and is co-founder of Vantrix.
Allan Benchetrit holds a BA in Political Science from Concordia University and an MBA from the John Molson School of Business in Montreal.
The predicted mobile data tsunami is upon us and the impact of capacity shortfall is unfolding. With every day the bandwidth crunch is left ignored, operators are losing customers. Expanding the infrastructure and rolling out LTE are expensive options while traffic management and bandwidth optimization can maximize utilization of available network capacity. Advanced methods of transcoding, transrating, pacing, adaptive streaming and caching enable more efficient usage of existing resources and improved QoE for video consumers. This involves deeper analysis of usage patterns and integration of Billing with the Policy Control servers.
Short and long-term network capacity options for mobile operators to ensure the best video experiences for their subscribers
Over the last few years we’ve seen the mobile landscape headed further and further down a video-centric path. Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index report indicates that mobile video traffic will double every year between 2011 and 2016. As a result, 71 per cent of the world’s mobile data traffic will be Video by 2016. With unabated growth in Content availability and the devices with which to consume it, mobile operators are forecasting – or already experiencing – network capacity constraints in the short term.
Yet, mobile operators are increasingly too limited financially and technically to effectively manage the situation. One might say that the issue is one of constrained supply rather than simply exploding demand. It may take a paradigm shift in the economic models between content providers, network operators and ultimately subscribers for us to see the kind of changes required.
Mechanisms for change
The mobile industry is indeed at a tipping point, and the way operators and technology innovators respond will determine both the short and long-term health of the world’s mobile networks. There are several solutions available from vendors, many of which are complimentary, to manage data usage while alleviating the capacity pressure on the networks. Here are some of the options, timeframes for deployment/impact and associated costs:
Mechanism Time to Impact Cost
Network Infrastructure upgrades such as LTE, 4G, additional spectrum, increase number of cell sites 5-10 year operator strategy. $$$
Offload traffic to femtocells or mobile CDN Mid-term solution. Network impact in 3-5 years. $$$
Metered Usage and capped data plans This can be introduced in a period of 1-2 years with most operators requiring sophisticated tools for charging differently per service, subscriber, and content. $$
Intelligent Traffic Management such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), Policy and Charging Rule Function (PCRF), Flexible Billing Systems Currently available and being deployed. Network impact in 1 to 2 years.
Bandwidth Optimization including transcoding, transrating, pacing, adaptive streaming and caching Network impact in 90 days. $
Cost legend: $ = Millions of dollars
$$ = Tens of millions of dollars
$$$ = Hundreds of millions of dollars
Bringing it all together through video mediation
Bandwidth Optimization is a cost-saving and highly effective technology. Rather than use a broad optimization approach that treats all content and subscribers the same way, operators should be encouraged to deploy this functionality as part of a holistic video mediation strategy.
As a first step, this involves performing deep video traffic analysis that goes well beyond what traditional DPI can offer. By gaining a better understanding of how video is used by subscribers (i.e. sources, time of day, devices, location, etc), operators now have a complete view on the trends of usage patterns. This enables informed decisions towards adjustments for existing services, and potentially the business case for the introduction of new services.
The next step is the integration of the optimization platform with a Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) framework and billing system. The PCRF node operates at the network core and is responsible for determining policy rules in real-time. Based on the lessons from the video traffic analysis and a deeper understanding of usage patterns, operators can go as far as to create unique rules and intelligent policy decisions for each subscriber active on the network. In doing so, operators can promote a more customized approach to its offerings such as different Quality of Service (QoS) levels and content centric charging models.
Once the policies are in place and integration has been completed with the charging systems, Bandwidth Optimization is then deployed to enforce those policies and safeguard that the resulting services are properly billed for. Various ‘lossless’ and ‘lossy’ techniques – including transcoding, transrating, pacing, adaptive streaming, and caching – can be matched up with subscribers and content to reduce latency, improve user experience and drive a more efficient use of the network.
With Bandwidth Optimization technology i.e. the ability to maximize the utilization of available network capacity, operators are able to make real-time adjustments to the way content is delivered to subscribers. As an example, the function of pacing creates optimized traffic ‘lanes’ on the data highway, tailored to the unique needs of each given user in a video session, allowing more concurrent users on the highway to receive an improved user experience in their video viewing. In doing so, Bandwidth Optimization can effectively free up a significant amount of network capacity, thereby reducing or deferring the OPEX and CAPEX investments necessary to meet the growing demand.
Following the deployment of policy-based Bandwidth Optimization, operators can take one last step to complete their video mediation project. This entails the enhancement of the service quality and user experience for their subscribers. The opportunities here can include the insertion of advertisements during browsing or video viewing sessions, the integration with social networks and location-based services to promote commerce, or even the convergence of the viewing experience across multiple screens. The result for operators is brand differentiation that can lead to new charging approaches and models, ultimately resulting in enriched revenue opportunities.
Quality of experience
One of the challenges with Bandwidth Optimization technology is that quality may be compromised at the expense of compression. As operators begin to evaluate second-generation solutions, the primary goal is shifting from a focus on the amount of bandwidth that can be saved to one of improving the quality of experience. In effect, the best-in-class solutions will shape the way balancing these two important elements is achieved, while providing the operator with objective metrics for measuring the impact of the decisions taken.
The evolution of mobile networks and devices that are spurring consumer creativity and usage in the last few years is certainly exciting for operators, device manufacturers, vendors and subscribers. Yet to ensure that the mobile evolution continues down a path of success for all stakeholders, the industry must address bandwidth challenges that will continue to pose challenges to growth, ARPU and customer satisfaction.
With every day the bandwidth crunch is left ignored, operators are losing customers to the competition. Our industry needs to address the video growth immediately, in a holistic fashion. Video mediation has to become a core competency of network operators, just like voice or messaging have been until now.