At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, a panel discussion on mobile video became obsessed with the term “buffer face.” According to the panel, “buffer face” means the look of frustration on a person’s face when the video they’re watching on their mobile phone freezes.
But urbandictionary.com offers another description: “the funny awkward facial shot of a person you see when an online video loads, then stops to buffer.” With either interpretation, the only time you’ll see a buffer face is when available bandwidth falls below the requisite level for streaming video.
Growth in jeopardy
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Despite adroit technology and impressive infrastructure, it all comes down to this: inability to deliver a consistently good customer experience for mobile video consumers. “Buffer face,” said the panel, is a critical problem which epitomizes the current stumbling blocks of mobile video delivery.
In a market of exploding demand, particularly from younger users, current bandwidth and capacity has fallen behind. This jeopardizes one of the biggest growth areas for consumer usage.
Mobile operators around the world face the challenge of supporting the demands of rapidly increased throughput across their networks, largely because of the explosion in Big Video traffic.
According to Cisco, live mobile video is projected to grow 39-fold between 2016 and 2021, by which time mobile video will comprise almost 80% of all mobile traffic, up from 67% today.
Cisco says the world will reach three trillion internet video-minutes per month by 2021, which is five million years of video each month, or about one million video-minutes every second.
Emerging media such as live internet video will increase 15-fold and reach 13 % of internet video traffic by 2021, meaning more streaming of TV apps and personal live streaming on social networks.
Video spikes conventional feeds
Fortunately, the industry is onto this, because television and video usage is changing rapidly and transforming the industry landscape. It is not just about streaming K-pop or English Premier League highlights to fans’ mobiles. There are whole new applications for video-in areas from smart cities to telemedicine-and much of the growth now happens in Asian regions.
India is a prime example. Nowadays, Indian mobile internet consumers use more data per month than anyone else in the world, including Americans and Chinese.
Reliance Jio is a brand which didn’t exist a year ago but has disrupted the market and now delivers 1 exabyte of data each month. India’s top video streaming service, Hotstar, streamed 297 million hours of video this April-quintuple that of August 2016.
This rapid transformation means that the older satellite and cable providers who previously dominated the industry are under ever more pressure as traditional television viewing (the family gathered in front of the living-room display, still featured in advertising for television sets) is increasingly a thing of the past.
“Cord-cutters” is another phrase seeing increased usage-it refers to the large number of consumers who disconnect from traditional television providers in favor of consuming a variety of sources, most of it delivered over the internet.
Cutting the cord
In May, a report from Canada-based Convergence Research Group estimated that TV subscriptions in the country will drop by 247,000 in 2017, after a plunge of 220,000 last year. Convergence Research estimates that 2016 was the first year that Canadians spent more on internet access than they did on TV subscriptions. In the US in 2015, 560,000 consumers cut the cord to their cable providers.
The Boston Consulting Group says that for the television business, OTT isn’t just the next big thing, it will be the biggest thing over the next few years. BCG estimates that in the five years from 2015 to 2020, global revenues from OTT video are projected to increase from 29 billion euros ($32.5 billion) to 86 billion euros ($90.6 billion), a growth rate that will far outpace revenues from TV advertising and traditional pay TV subscription services.
Some traditional TV players are fighting back. In May, two of Ireland’s largest TV operators announced they would offer their services direct to mobile phone customers as the Irish government says it is pondering a license fee for larger screens.
In response, Eir announced that it is launching a premium sports TV service direct to its Meteor mobile customers’ phones. In the same market, Sky is to launch a new a la carte TV service aimed at phones and tablets.