A move by US operators to curtail the amount of bandwidth allocated to video could become the new global norm as operators struggle to manage rapidly growing data traffic, OpenSignal CEO Brendan Gill predicted.
Gill told Mobile World Live managing the data load associated with streaming video is “a real and current challenge for mobile operators on a really large scale”.
“When there’s a peak or spike in demand, primarily driven by video, that’s going to lead to congestion on the network, which ultimately translates to the buffering people experience in their video streams.”
In the US, operators have turned to network optimisation models which limit video bandwidth to help smooth out these spikes. While only a smattering of operators in other countries have adopted similar strategies, Gill said OpenSignal sees this tactic as a model many others could take up going forward.
“The US is quite advanced, it’s very content heavy in particular, and so the need for it there arose there perhaps before other places. But I think it’s only a matter of time before we see this elsewhere.”
But the bandwidth restrictions do come with consequences. Gill noted OpenSignal’s new State of Mobile Video report showed the US did not perform as well as expected compared with other countries delivering similar download speeds.
“For the amount of speed consumers experience there you might expect them to have a better video experience, but they stand out. One of the reasons for that is the various traffic management policies the US operators have put in place.”
Multiple factors influence the video streaming experience including network speed, latency and bandwidth. Gill explained while speed is an important indicator, beyond a 15Mb/s threshold it no longer closely correlates to a better video experience. What matters is low latency to allow videos to load more quickly and consistent bandwidth to avoid stalling.
Gill said throttling practices helped earn the US a “fair” rating in OpenSignal’s global video report with a score of 46.84 out of 100, ranking it behind neighbours Canada (59.93) and Mexico (52.36).
The metrics, based on measurements taken from more than 8 million devices between May and August, took into account picture quality, loading time and stall rate. The Czech Republic scored the highest (68.52) and was one of 11 countries rated as “very good”.
No countries received a rating of “excellent” with a score of more than 75 out of 100.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back