Mobile Networks Falter Under Video Demand

Peak traffic congestion at night causes most stalling, according to Bytemobile, and coming network upgrades likely won't help.

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Mobile networks experience the most congestion at 10 p.m. when mobile video consumption peaks, causing users to have the most stalling, according to the second quarter 2010 Mobile Minute Metrics report from Bytemobile, released Thursday. Worldwide, YouTube accounted for 36% of the total video traffic on wireless networks, with adult content and "long tail" internet content making up the rest, the report found.

Video continues to be the dominant form of mobile data traffic on wireless networks, mobile internet platform provider Bytemobile said, and cited projections from Cisco Systems that mobile video will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 131% between 2009 and 2014.

"The mobile data industry is experiencing tremendous growth, with video as the key driver," said Joel Brand, VP of product management at Bytemobile, in a statement. "While operators are enjoying revenue growth from data subscriptions, they are also experiencing rapid escalation of traffic, which is outpacing available network capacity and adversely affecting quality of service."

In addition to a deteriorating user experience as data traffic continues to increase, operators will have to implement stringent billing policies as way to curtail data usage, Brand said.

The July report also found that even the fastest networks experience stalling, "underscoring the probability that not even next-generation network technology will be sufficient to satisfy user demand for data services,'' Bytemobile said.

On average, there is 10 seconds of stalling for every 60 seconds of video watched on a 3G network, the firm said. However, the user experience improves noticeably with optimization, and users also tend to select lower-quality videos to avoid stalling and have a better media experience, the report found. Adobe Flash was the most popular video format on the mobile internet, comprising 90% of total video traffic, Bytemobile reported.

Aggregate data traffic from a global cross-section of customers' networks was anonymously sourced to examine the present state of the mobile ecosystem, Bytemobile said. The firm looked at two metrics: the resolution of the video to determine how crisp the picture is, and whether it plays in real time or stops and stutters, said Chris Koopmans, VP of product development.

"Many operators say 'the next speed will solve your problem'... the point we're trying to make here is however fast you make your network, users will consume it,'' added Koopmans. "No matter how fast it is, you will always end up with congestion."