Commentary

More Video, Everywhere: The Internet Bandwidth Dilemma

More than 1.2 million online videos will be watched today in the United States alone. Cisco's Visual Networking Indexestimates that video delivery monopolizes more than 50% of current Internet bandwidth, creating the main source of Internet bottlenecks -- and ultimately, the primary cause of consumer frustration over poor performance.  And by 2016, Cisco expects video delivery to reach 86% of consumer Internet traffic. 

The ability to distribute these videos in the high-speed manner that consumers expect is not keeping up with increases in technological innovations.  For example, the increased resolution made possible by HD  video and the developing UltraHD (4K) resolution standard means higher bitrates, creating a massive burden on both fixed and mobile networks.  A technically efficient and low-cost solution for disseminating the huge amount of data required for high-quality video has yet to be adopted. 

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An obvious solution is limiting the video bitrate, but doing so in "brute force" causes noticeable degradation in image quality: an unacceptable tradeoff for consumers and content providers alike.

For content providers, the ability to provide high-quality video quickly comes down to bandwidth for content providers.  If videos were a liquid, bandwidth would refer to the size of the pipe.  If too much liquid tries to enter the pipe, it will travel at a slower pace, impeding video delivery.  Wedge even larger high quality video files into the pipe, and it’s only a matter of time before it clogs completely.

In just the past few years, we have witnessed a fundamental shift away from video content delivery over traditional broadcast networks (over-the-air, cable and satellite) to virtually spot delivery via over-the-top (OTT) Internet delivery.  Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant video and iTunes have emerged as household names, seizing market share in their quest to satiate consumers’ intensifying appetites for content choice, flexibility and value.

Mobile video delivery has also grown at a dizzying pace, as YouTube, Vimeo and Hulu continue to proliferate mobile OTT services, along with robust “TV Everywhere” offerings launched by the majority of cable and satellite networks. In fact, mobile video is so prevalent that, according to a Bytemobile Mobile Analytics Report, online video now accounts for 50 percent of all mobile traffic.

 

The mainstreaming of these popular services, along with revolutionary mobile technologies that make viewing videos as simple as switching on a smartphone, now mean Americans are spending more online time than ever consuming video content. According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index, by 2016 online video users are expected to double to 1.5 billion.

The combination of the demand for both fixed and mobile video delivery, which is growing exponentially, along with the increasing resolution and quality of video capture and display devices, means it’s only a matter of time before bandwidth demand exceeds capacity. 

The other aspect of what will lead to a bandwidth bottleneck is that in today’s virtually connected, social world, many users are downloading or streaming a video and then sharing it with their friends. In fact, according to a recent study from Invodo, 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others. This means that they are doubling the work that their network is doing, while placing pressure on their friends’ networks as well.

It is therefore indisputable that compression of higher-quality video content is mission critical.  A video optimization solution is needed now, but only if it possesses the capability to lower video stream bitrates without the loss of quality.

Regardless of how you prefer to devour your favorite videos across media platforms, new tools can streamline the delivery process, unclogging the bandwidth pipes to ensure that you can effortlessly hit "play" and watch high-quality video on-demand without interruption across multiple screens.
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1 comment about "More Video, Everywhere: The Internet Bandwidth Dilemma".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, September 23, 2013 at 5:04 a.m.

    Disputed! (1) "Cisco's Visual Networking Index estimates that video delivery monopolizes more than 50% of current Internet bandwidth, creating the main source of Internet bottlenecks -- and ultimately, the primary cause of consumer frustration over poor performance." Thanks for linking but I cannot find this information in the linked document, not even the words "bottleneck" or "frustration". I'd have expected poor Wifi, or slow connection speeds, to be much bigger causes of consumer frustration. And the following is usually plain wrong: "92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others. This means that they are doubling the work that their network is doing, while placing pressure on their friends’ networks as well". But if you share a streamed video, the other viewers will stream it from the same place as you, e.g. youtube, so your network does basically no extra work.

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