Faster speeds don't always equate a better video experience

Kevin Fitchard/OpenSignal
Telecom Asia

The differences in mobile video experience across East Asia are as varied as the region itself. OpenSignal recently performed an analysis of the quality of video streamed from the internet to mobile phones in 14 countries across East Asia, and we found that the region contained countries providing some of the best video experiences in the world as well as some of the worst.

As you might expect, countries with the most sophisticated 4G infrastructures, like South Korea, Japan and Singapore, performed best in our video rankings; while countries with less powerful 4G networks, such as many Southeast Asian nations, landed in the bottom. But we didn’t find a simple formula of faster speeds equaling better video quality. There were a lot of factors at play, and speed was just one them.

In fact, we teased out two trends in the East Asia video experience with regards to speed. The first trend shows that at higher levels, speed has very little to do with video quality. East Asia is home to countries with some of the fastest overall download speeds in the world, but the strength of those mobile broadband connections wasn’t necessarily translating into the best overall video experience. The second trend relates to countries where overall speeds are still relatively low. In those countries, we found that speed had a definite impact on video quality and even a slight increase in average download speed could produce a dramatic uptick in our video experience measurements.

See Also

Telecom Asia December 2018

Before diving into those trends, let’s examine OpenSignal’s video experience metric and what it tells us. Video experience is calculated as a score from 0 to 100, with 100 being the best video experience possible. This score is determined by several factors including the length of load time before a video starts playing, the amount of stalling during playback and the resolution at which the video renders. Those scores are grouped into different ratings ranging from Excellent to Poor. In East Asia we see countries falling within nearly the entire range of that scale with Singapore landing at the top with a Very Good rating (65-75), and the Philippines at the bottom with a Poor rating (0-40).

Video by the numbers

Open Signal: Video experience in East AsiaLet’s begin with the top of the chart. Singapore consistently ranks among the fastest 4G countries in the world, so the fact that Singapore was the only country in East Asia to earn a Very Good rating in video experience might not come as a surprise. But the nation with the fastest overall download speeds in the world is South Korea, with an average connection of 45.6 Mbps in our measurements, yet it fell well short of the top spot in our chart and managed only a Good rating (55-65) in overall video experience. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s video experience was comparable to South Korea’s, even though the island’s overall download speeds were more than 30 Mbps slower in our analysis.

Clearly other factors than speed are at play when it comes to determining the quality of video consumers see on their operators’ connections. Once we get past the 15 Mbps threshold in overall download speed we see latency, the consistency of connection speed and even operator policies having a much more decisive impact on video experience scores.

Now let’s look at the bottom half of the chart, which is populated mainly by the countries of Southeast Asia. Here we saw a much tighter correlation between speed and video experience. The Southeast Asian country with the lowest overall download speed, the Philippines, also had the lowest overall video experience score, while the country with the fastest speed in the region, Myanmar, had the best video experience score. In fact, OpenSignal’s State of Mobile Video report analyzing 69 countries globally found that every country with an overall download speed average lower than 14 Mbps fell into the Poor-to-Fair range (0-55) of our video experience rankings.

When we drill down into operator-level video experience results in specific countries we see this trend magnified. For instance, in OpenSignal’s recent Philippines report we found that Smart had overall download speeds nearly 50% faster than competitor Globe Telecom, and that translated into a far superior overall video experience score, even landing Smart a Fair rating in our scale, despite the Philippines as a whole earning a Poor rating.

 

OpenSignal: Overall video experience in the PhilippinesIf an operator or country wants to excel in video experience then it clearly needs to maintain decent average download speeds. But once such speeds are achieved, any additional boost in speed doesn’t seem to matter all that much. The difference between a fast connection and a superfast connection is negligible when it comes to video quality customers actually see. So what does this mean for the East Asian mobile industry? As we move from the 4G era to the 5G era, speeds are becoming overrated. Powerful connection speeds may be a good sign of an operator’s technological prowess, but when it comes to the content people consume - like video - it’s not a good indication of the experience consumers receive.     

Kevin Fitchard is lead analyst at OpenSignal

This article first appeared in Telecom Asia December 2018 Edition

Commentary

5G and data center-friendly network architectures

Matt Walker / MTN Consulting

Webscale and transmission network operators' interests are aligning as the 5G era dawns

Matt Walker / MTN Consulting

Webscale and transmission network operators' interests are aligning as the 5G era dawns

Rémy Pascal / Analysys Mason

The launch of 5G by South Korean operators serves as a first benchmark for other operators around the world