|Topic:||The Other V-Word: Challenges, Opportunities and the role of Policy 2.0
in Mobile Video
|Author:||W. William Diotte|
|Title:||President & CEO|
William Diotte is President and CEO of BroadHop Inc., the industry’s deployment leader in policy management and control solutions for service providers. A veteran in the communications and Internet services industry with over 20 years of business experience, Mr Diotte has focused on providing innovative approaches to technology in communications solutions. He has led BroadHop since its inception seven years ago and has held senior executive positions with CAT Technology, SRI Consulting, and Gemini, leading network services as well as telecom and Internet solutions.
Mr Diotte holds a degree in engineering from Queen’s University, an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, and is a graduate of the Stockholm School of Economics International Business Program.
Industry analysts forecast a huge rise in mobile traffic due to the unprecedented growth of Video. To cope with this increase, operators are embracing next gen policy management that enables them to transition in stages. In stage one operators move from flat rate to quota and fair usage. In stage two, service delivery is optimised and traffic is dynamically routed or off-loaded. In stage three, users customise their service and delivery is based on dynamic factors with real-time video QoE. By implementing ‘Policy 2.0’ features, carriers can optimise usage of their assets and gain users’ loyalty.
This article examines the challenges and the opportunities that video presents to mobile operators. Voice which has been the priority for years has been overtaken by an ever accelerating demand for broadband data and especially data in the form of the other V-word: bandwidth intensive video. With video, service providers are faced with disruptive service, network and monetisation challenges. This article provides a view of how advanced policy management can assist in overcoming the hurdles that Video presents and explains the critical role that next-gen Policy technology plays in turning this challenge into opportunity.
Keeping pace with demand
For years, voice dominated the vast majority of revenue generation for telcos and the vast majority of traffic being consumed on their networks. With the advent of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other intelligent network connected devices, the demand for broadband data has long since surpassed voice and continues to accelerate at an unprecedented and unrelenting pace as users around the world demand access to Voice, Video, Data, and the Internet whenever and wherever they are.
According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Forecast, global IP traffic is expected to reach 80.5 exabytes per month by 2015, up from approximately 20.2 exabytes in 2010. Average global IP traffic in 2015 is expected to reach 245 terabytes per second, the equivalent of 200 million people streaming an HD movie at 1.2 Mbps simultaneously every day. IP traffic in Western Europe will reach 19 exabytes per month by 2015 with monthly Internet traffic generating 3.1 billion DVDs’ worth of traffic, or 12 exabytes per month. IP traffic in Central and Eastern Europe will reach 3.7 exabytes per month by 2015 generating 0.8 billion DVDs’ worth of traffic, or 3.1 exabytes per month. IP traffic in the Middle East and Africa will reach twoexabytes per month by 2015 generating 440 million DVDs’ worth of traffic, or 1.8 exabytes per month.
The same report notes that the global online video community is expected to increase by approximately 500 million users by 2015, up from more than one billion internet video users in 2010. Global video traffic, which includes 3DTV and HDTV, is projected to grow 14-fold between 2010 and 2015. Global mobile internet data traffic meanwhile is expected to increase 26-fold over the period, reaching 6.3 exabytes per month (or 75 exabytes annually).
To put this in perspective, a video session for standard definition is roughly 200 times the amount of bandwidth used for Voice. For HD video, you need 800 times the amount of bandwidth when compared to a voice session.
These relatively short term projections present very real challenges for service providers – keeping pace with demand, managing this incredible growth, and figuring out how to turn a profit and how to attract and keep subscribers, all while delivering truly competitive QoS(Quality of Service) and QoE (Quality of Experience).
People love moving pictures – and to get what they want, they’re already going over-the-top (OTT) to video based content providers like Hulu, Netflix, and BBC iPlayer. According to a June 2011 report entitled ‘Mobile Video Services: A Global Strategic Business Report’ by Global Industry Analysts, in terms of revenues, Europe represents the largest market for mobile video services in the world. In terms of number of subscribers, Asia-Pacific represents the largest regional market for mobile video services. Rest of world comprising Canada, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, represents the fastest growing market in terms of revenues as well as number of subscribers. In the US, companies like Amazon, Apple and Google already have much of the infrastructure and resources in place to offer competitive subscription video-on-demand, and the competition from cable companies is only going to intensify.
A survey by YouTube last year found that 75 percent of viewers used mobile devices as their primary way of accessing the service. Content, more than ever before, is king and subscribers want access to the Internet even if the QoE is less than stellar. Yet, if mobile operators can offer a fine quality user experience versus a poor OTT experience, one that is also consistently reliable and secure, then operators and users can both experience a win-win situation. Operators have a sizeable opportunity to give subscribers what they want with enriched OTT services, such as high quality mobile Skype, Webex or video chat, delivered with better quality of service and quality of experience.
BroadHop sees operators transitioning through three different stages. Stage 1 is best effort video management. Service providers need to create the capabilities to effectively manage mobile video traffic for fair use. This is the stage at which most service providers are today. We are currently seeing wireless carriers around the world rapidly moving from unlimited, all-you-can-eat plans to quota-based and fair usage policy controls. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Much more is needed to cope with the huge loads that video will add to overworked and congested wireless networks.
Stage 2 is applying QoS. Service providers need to create the capabilities to prioritise different types of video traffic and deliver that traffic accordingly. This capability will require policy coupled with video optimization technologies. To counter the huge demand for video, some carriers are moving to tiered service plans based on gold, silver or bronze levelsto segment traffic. Only a few carriers are currently considering specialised video optimisation policy controls that are designed to maintain QoE better while minimising some of the inherent congestion posed by high bandwidth video usage on wireless networks.
Once these are available, then operators can move to Stage 3, which is the delivery of high quality, non-stop mobile video applications. This will be augmented by real-time video QoE monitoring capabilities, intelligent video steering and routing capabilities. Stage 3 will mean highly personalized mobile video apps based on subscriber preferences and personal polices that work in conjunction with the business and network configuration policies enforced by wireless carriers. In summary, Stage 3 represents a state-of-the-art approach to managing, optimising, monetising and maximising the full potential of video based service delivery over wireless networks.
Network upgrades for video
To provide a satisfactory video experience, service providers need to continue to invest in bandwidth expansion and management. LTE deployments are critical but are not a panacea. While LTE can significantly increase throughput, if we look at Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Forecast, mobile video usage is expected to increase 26 fold between 2010 and 2015. No one who is looking closely at this problem truly believes that LTE will solve all of the challenges facing mobile video. Data offload investment is potentially as important as LTE deployments, allowing mobile users to leverage other wireless technologies that don’t rely on cellular technologies. Traffic management and optimisation technologies will be required to sustain video—including advanced, next gen policy management, RAN congestion management, subscriber management and more.
The promise of Advanced Policy
Having invested billions in spectrum and infrastructure, the time is ripe for operators to manage their bandwidth better. Policy vendors such as BroadHop and the ecosystem of policy partners have been working on solving the bandwidth dilemma by delivering next-gen policy management and video optimisation solutions known as Policy 2.0. These advanced technologies go beyond the typical policy control and charging to deliver scalability, service performance, and flexibility, and even provide policy control and monetisation for OTT applications. Operators who embrace Policy 2.0 stand to make money and offset or reverse decelerating prices in terms of what they can charge in the marketplace for access to data traffic and especially video traffic.
Advanced policy technologies take advantage of the latest technological advancements, such as virtualisation, application frameworks for development, and the incorporation of QoE and video optimisation techniques. With these capabilities, mobile operators can manage more tightly additional capital expenditures and pre-empt congestion while subscribers get a chance to have a say in what they want and are willing to pay for.
Today, OTT is just ‘best effort’ –you get whatever is available at a particular time, with no guarantee of quality and no personalisation. With Policy 2.0 technologies, operators gain a whole new level of control enabling them to increase their subscriber base loyalty, maximise the revenue potential, and do it all more cost effectively. When compared to the huge outlay required for infrastructure expansion, the investment needed for top-notch policy management is relatively minor.
Advanced Policy also enables mobile operators to optimise their existing investment and segment their traffic to ensure that ‘deserving’ subscribers get that higher quality experience that they expect. With Policy 2.0, service providers can optimise and control video, using techniques such as bit rate throttling, adaptive streaming and multimedia traffic steering to help reduce congestion and keep up with the incredible demand for access to the web and video. Advanced Policy provides the mobile operator with the tools they need in order to manage the network and get the analytics they need on what customers are doing on the network, and when and where, so that they can optimise and fine-tune their service plans. Ultimately, the goal is to get subscribers to stay with their operator, enjoy their services, their personalisation and their web access and have an overall better experience.
Opportunity awaits those service providers who are willing to embrace the challenges video presents. By building out spectrum, moving to 4G, focusing on evolved packet core and IMS support, and by embracing Policy 2.0 solutions, service providers will be able to optimise resources and improve user experience, paving the path for truly personalised services.
When selecting a policy control solution, operators need to ask vendors about scalability and service performance. If the solution doesn’t scale up to demand, it could mean spending much more on network build-out. Service providers should also verify that their policy management solution is well suited for the rapid development of compelling new applications and services. Armed with their superior mobile positions, a solid next generation network, and powerful and evolving policy and video optimization capabilities, operators should have the capabilities in hand to deliver OTT mobile video experiences that are far superior to that of web content and cable providers.