Globally, the mobile services market is forecasted to grow to $976 billion by 2016 with the majority of growth coming from mobile broadband services. The industry also predicts that mobile data traffic will increase 26-fold and the number of mobile-only Internet users will increase to 788 million by 2015.
As LTE networks roll out across the United States, carriers and users are excited about its many benefits. LTE opens the door for an enhanced user experience, enriched video communication solutions and amazing new apps. But with all of these benefits and increased traffic also comes an amplified strain on the broadband network, resulting in video stalling and slower data speeds. Will LTE solve this ongoing network connection problem or make it worse?
In a recent mobile analytics report, mobile video was reported as making up the majority of total data traffic on networks worldwide, at an average of 50% across all regions. Yet even as carriers begin to move to LTE, mobile video user experience still varies. Citrix ByteMobile found that a five-minute video with high-definition quality on one of the latest LTE devices could generate five times more traffic than previous generation devices. With the growing popularity of video consumption on mobile devices, and the emergence of two-way video communications like FaceTime, mobile data traffic volume is expected to grow 25 to 35 times in the next five years, causing tremendous capacity burden on already strained networks.
As network speeds increase, mobile subscribers typically experience less video stalling. However, video stalling on even the fastest networks still occurs based on dynamic conditions such as subscriber demand and network congestion. While data usage continues to increase, not only will the user experience deteriorate, but we would expect to see operators experiment with more sophisticated tariffs and billing policies in order to manage their network traffic intelligently.
The gap between user expectations and congestion-impacted service is not only frustrating to consumers, but also creates new challenges for operators. Increased demand on capacity requires greater control of networks and the ability to measure the subscriber’s quality of experience (QoE). Unfortunately, as a majority of network operators have already seen, the growth of mobile data traffic has resulted in significant network congestion and therefore a diminished user experience. Unless mobile network operators are able to intelligently manage network capacity, the explosion of multimedia content will continue to result in deteriorated QoE.
To address this challenge, mobile operators are prioritizing investments to enable their networks to handle more subscribers and bandwidth, as well as latency-dependent applications. Various strategies include data offload, RAN-sharing and backhaul upgrades. They will also deploy smart capacity solutions in their networks to better utilize existing capacity and increase customer satisfaction. Such solutions can reduce network download volumes by 40-60 percent – further decreasing the cost of content while improving the overall economics of mobile video and other data services offered by operators. With the adoption of LTE, networks will be looking at opportunities to optimize the significant increase in data traffic to deliver improved user experience.