BLOGGER: NAOMI WEISER
It’s not just athletes who will be under pressure at the Olympics – spare a thought for your service provider. There’s enough capacity demand on their networks for video content right now as it is – for example, YouTube now exceeds 200 million views a day on mobile – without adding even more live streaming to the mix.
But according to Sandvine research, 2012 is going to be the year that live video breaks out from traditional TV and cable to Internet-connected TVs, tablets and smartphones. This is especially relevant as far as sport is concerned, with Sandvine highlighting the example of Bell Canada and Rogers, which jointly bought controlling interest in the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. When explaining the reasons behind their decision, Bell’s CEO George Cope said they believe that “ increasingly live content is going to be more and more important in the technology world and there is no better live content than professional sports”. Indeed, sports broadcaster ESPN, considered a pioneer in the mobile media space, now views mobile as the ‘first screen’, rather than the more commonly ascribed ‘third screen’.
In the UK, the BBC sees mobile, and 3G specifically, as an important part of its Olympic Games coverage in 2012. Daniel Danker, the BBC’s general manager of programmes and on demand disclosed that, while streaming via their iPlayer already makes up 20% of all mobile requests, this year they “intend to do quite a bit over 3G for the Olympics. It’s a very live event, and people don’t always want to wait until they get home to experience it.” The demand for mobile data during this year’s Games is expected to be so great that the Financial Times reports that the British Ministry of Defence, Civil Aviation Authority and Home Office are to relinquish communications resources to safeguard telecoms capacity for the Olympics.
BSkyB’s Director of mobile Dave Gibbs has noticed the growth in demand for TV-related apps from its customers. “During 2011, as smartphones and tablets became ever more sophisticated, and the quality of the TV experience they can deliver became ever more impressive, we saw an increasing demand from our customers to both watch TV on the move as well as enjoy experiences on companion devices that enhanced their enjoyment of our content.”
Live video streaming is yet another example of rising consumer expectations regarding the quality of their mobile experience – service providers are feeling the pressure of meeting increasing demand for data on their networks while maintaining acceptable service quality to prevent issues such as loss of signal, cross-talk and slow service response time. A survey of 30 mobile operators revealed that mobile networks are struggling to cope with the data demand being driven by smartphones and laptops: more than 60 percent of wireless service providers interviewed are experiencing data congestion, with 20 percent registering severe overload at specific times. And there’s a lot at stake when it comes to being able to support live streaming since the mobile operators interviewed believed that the most serious damage to a brand’s reputation comes from a poor data experience.
Mobile operators see building out additional network capacity as essential, but blindly throwing capacity at the problem isn’t the solution. As Teresa Cottam, research director of Telesperience, the firm that conducted the research explains, “a smarter approach to capacity management and network planning is needed for, with quality of service providing the competitive differentiator.”