Monday, January 21, 2013

The law of the hungriest: Net neutrality and video

I was reflecting recently on net neutrality and its impact on delivering video in wireless networks. Specifically, most people I have discussed this with, seem to think that net neutrality means doing nothing. No intervention from the network operator to prioritize, discriminate, throttle, reduce or suppress a type of traffic vs another, whether based on a per subscriber, location, device or service.

This strikes me as somewhat short sighted and not very cogent of how the industry operates. I wonder why net neutrality is to apply to mobile networks, but not to handset manufacturers, app providers or content providers for instance.

There has been several depictions of some handset vendors or app providers having implemented method that are harmful to networks either unwittingly or downright predatory. Some smartphone vendors, for instance implement proprietary variations of streaming protocols to grab as much capacity of the network as possible, irrespective of the encoding of the accessed video, to ensure a fast and smooth video delivery to their the detriment of others. It is easy to design an app or a browser or a video service that would use as much of a network capacity as possible, irrespective of the actual need for the service to function normally, which would result for a better user experience for the person accessing the service / the app / using this device but a degraded quality of experience for everyone else.

Why is that not looked after by net neutrality regulatory committees? Why would the network provide unrestricted access to any app / device / video service and let them fight for capacity without control? Mobile networks become ruled then by the law of the hungriest and when it comes to video, it can quickly become a fight dominated by the most popular web sites, phone vendors or app providers... I think that net neutrality, if it has to happen in mobile networks must be managed and that the notion of fair access extends to all parties involved.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013: the year of Big Video

In September of 2012, Vodafone Germany shocked the industry in announcing that video was consuming 85% of its LTE network.
As we have started a brand new year and vendors and operators alike are finalizing plans for Mobile World Congress, I thought it would be timely to review what the main vendors of video optimization were up to in 2012.

Allot / Ortiva Wireless:
The company, with the acquisition of Ortiva Wireless in April and Oversi in July has certainly made great strides in their strategic plan to provide a one-stop-shop traffic management solution to its customers. Between DPI, policy management, charging functions, transparent caching and video optimization for mobile, enterprise and fixed broadband, the company has a large tool set and addressable market. The challenge will be in the integration of the acquired technologies and talents, together with the formulation of a differentiating, competitive solutions offering that goes beyond analytics, charging, managing...

The company has entered the fray with a fresh outlook. Leader in mobile video QoE measurement, they have been asked by their customers to help manage the video QoE and have launched a new product (Q-SRV) to "measure, manage and monetize" the video experience in mobile networks. One to watch in 2013.

Bytemobile / Citrix: 
The acquisition of Bytemobile by Citrix last year was a big shock for the market segment. The leading vendor in market share was acquired by an industry's outsider under the rationale to enter the mobile market. Citrix is definitely starting to tickle F5 and Cisco with Netscaler as a load balancer / proxy in mobile networks. What best introduction in the mobile space than the leader in mobile internet and video optimization? It will be interesting to watch how the replacement of Unison platform by the T3000 series, together with the suggested replacement of F5 by Netscaler plays out in the coming months...

Flash Networks:
The company started the year with a bang with 3 large tier 1 customers in video optimization (MTS russia, Globe telecom and Telekom Austria Group) announcements. Since then, it has been quiet, but the company has been busy upgrading and up selling their existing customer base. It will be interesting to see whether the company will take advantage of some of the market deals coming this year.

The secretive Chinese vendor has seen its market share in browsing gateway increase dramatically over the last 3 years with over 114 operators and this is the traditional Trojan horse for video optimization to enter the market. Mobile internet is becoming a focus on the company's strategy in the core network and it looks like the slides on video optimization presented last year in Barcelona are morphing into a product offering. It is still early days, but Huawei can move fast when needed.

Mobixell Networks:
The company has digested its 724 solutions acquisition and made good progress in converting its installed base and winning new deals in video optimization. Not enough to satisfy its investors, apparently, with the replacement of its CEO in December last year. The company is clearly looking for different growth parameters and it is likely that we will see more strategic activities from them in 2013.

Not much to report for the Nordic giant, struggling to impose its vision of self organizing networks in core. The sale of its OSS/BSS division to Redknee will either see a refocusing or spin off of the video assets.

The company acquired Dilithium assets in 2010 and has been struggling to have a video strategy since. They briefly considered video optimization, but video is no longer a focus for the company in 2013.

Openwave Mobility:
After a rough couple of years, seeing its CEO replacement, and the spin off to an equity venture, the company is starting to re focus and to reboot its traffic management and video optimization strategy. They have a few references in the space and are working to update their browsing gateway's installed base with video optimization. It will be interesting to see if they are up to the challenge in 2013.

The company took the market by storm by launching cloud-based video optimization and simultaneously announcing Verizon Wireless as a customer and investor. Since then, with a fresh round of financing, the company has been expanding its reach to Europe. It will be good to see how cloud takes in mobile networks.

In September of 2012, Jens Schulte-Bockum , CEO Vodafone Germany shocked the industry in announcing that the 10% of their customer base who have elected to shift to their LTE network had a fundamentally different usage pattern than their 3G counterparts:
Voice, text, other messaging and data - everything that makes money for us - uses less than 15%. The bit that doesn’t make money uses 85% of the capacity. Clearly we are thinking about how we can monetise that. ”
“The bit that does not make money for us” is mobile OTT video. As mobile video threatens to overgrow every other traffic types, operators start to look at ways to alleviate the costs associated with the necessary capacity upgrades to meet the demand, as well as strategies to monetize this large, untapped opportunity. I will be releasing my report "Mobile Video Optimization 2013" on March 15 where I will examine the latest strategies from the dominant vendors in the space.