3 Mobile Video Trends to Watch in 2013

By Nitin Bhandari   |   Friday, 13 Dec 2013, 12:42 IST

Anyone paying attention to the mobile space the past several years has watched a confluence of forces bring about rapid changes in focus for operators, device makers and network hardware and software makers. My own company, Skyfire, has ridden the wave from feature phones to smartphones; from 2G to 3G to 4G; from spotty and hard-to-find Wi-Fi to nearly ubiquitous WiFi in the home, office and elsewhere; and from low-bandwidth consumer data consumption to an unprecedented surge in bandwidth-clogging, network-threatening over the top (OTT) video. From my vantage point, having been so close to this space for so many years, I can see three key trends that all links in the mobile chain should keep an eye out for in 2013:

The Surge In Mobile Video Usage Won't Let Up

While Cisco's oft-quoted 2013 Visual Networking Index evoked some chirping due to some slight downward revisions, it still showed that global mobile data traffic grew by 70 percent in 2012 alone, reaching 885 petabytes per month (up from 550 petabytes/month in 2011). 50 percent of network bandwidth was video, and Cisco projects that will grow to 66 percent of all consumed bandwidth by 2017. Ericsson's similar study was more aggressive, showing global mobile data traffic doubling during the same period. Even subjective and anecdotal information shows just how central video usage on smartphones and tablets is becoming: larger screens, more 3G- and LTE-connected tablets; more content providers; and a generation coming online for the first time on mobile devices first, rather than desktop computers.

SDN and the Cloud to become Core to Network Strategy

The legacy method of buying ever-greater amounts of proprietary appliance hardware to keep up with mobile network traffic demands is rapidly melting away. Mobile operators have almost in unison begun to embrace much more lightweight and flexible methods of routing traffic and managing network functions. There is a reason the acronym "SDN" (software-defined networking) is spread all over every operator's product roadmap. SDN and cloud-based network management answer a gaping need for powerful, infinitely flexible and dramatically lower-cost tools, in an era when mobile networks live and die by their ability to cope with the massive amounts of data being pulled across them. I talk regularly with mobile operators all over the world, and it's clear that the cloud, and the SDN and virtualized services that run on top of it, are fast emerging as building blocks for next-generation operator networks.

Surgical Optimization that Focuses on User Experience and Network Capex Takes Center Stage

We will also see operators in 2013 place much more focus on individualizing their network offerings in order to deliver a better user experience to their customers, an experience that deals with that user's unique combination of context, location, content request and network congestion level rather than a macro, "one-size-fits all" optimization policy. In a 2012 survey by Harris Interactive reported that 40 percent of U.S. Smartphone owners who had switched mobile operators during the previous year said they did so because of "data quality/service", leaving their current operator in search of better data connections with a new one. This was second only to "price" as a key reason for churning. Now that cloud-based tools exist to optimize video traffic in real-time down to the individual session level, expect to see a wholesale embrace by mobile operators of innovative, surgical optimization tools that keep their customers with them, and not churning off to a competitor.


About Author

Nitin Bhandari

Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder-Skyfire

Founded in 2007, Skyfire is a cloud solutions mobility company. The Mountain View based company funded by Panorama Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Matrix Partners, Trinity Ventures and Verizon Ventures was recently acquired by Opera software, the Norwegian web browser developer.