Monday, May 27, 2013

All bytes are not created equal...

Recent discussions with a number of my clients have brought to light a fundamental misconception. Mobile video is not data. It is not a different use case of data or a particular form of data, it is just a different service. The sooner network operators will understand that they cannot count, measure, control video the same way as browsing data, the sooner they will have a chance to integrate the value chain of delivering video.

Deep packet inspection engines count bytes, categorize traffic per protocol, bearer, URL, throttle and prioritize data flow based on rules that are video-myopic. Their concern is of Quality of Service (QoS) not Quality of Experience (QoE). Policy and charging engines decide meter and limit traffic in real-time based on the incomplete picture painted by DPIs and other network elements.

Not understanding whether traffic is video (or assuming it is video just based on the URL) can prove itself catastrophic for the user experience and their bill. How can traffic management engine instantiate video charging and prioritization rules if they cannot differentiate between download, progressive download, adaptive bit rate? How can they decide what is the appropriate bandwidth for a service if they do not understand what is the encoding of the video, what are the available bit rates, if it is HD or SD, what is the user expectation?

Content providers naturally push a content of the highest quality that the network can afford, smartphone and tablets try and grab as much network capacity available at the establishment of a session to guarantee user experience, often at the detriment of other connections / devices. It is wrong to assume that the quality of experience in video is the result of a harmonious negotiation between content, device and networks.
It is actually quite the opposite, each party pulling in their direction with conflicting priorities.
User experience suffers as a result and we have started to see instances of users complaining or churning due to bad video experience.

All bytes are not created equal. Video weighs heavier and has a larger emotional attachment than email or browsing services when it comes to the user's experience of a network's quality. This is one of the subjects I will be presenting at Informa's Mobile Video Global Summit in Berlin, next week.

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