The rate of watching on mobile movies and other video content is drastically growing!
The Rise of the Mobile Device
The days where a phone just made phone calls has long gone. As technology improves, the uses we are putting our mobile devices to is expanding exponentially. While there is a wide variety of devices that will allow you to stream movies, most of them are stationary and tied to your home and broadband. Here is where mobile movies and other content comes to play. Increasingly, people are wanting to watch their favourite shows and movies while they are travelling and away from home. Over 2015 the global mobile traffic data grew by 74%, with mobile video traffic accounting for over half of all mobile data traffic (1). It is predicted that by 2020 approximately 75% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be videos (1),
But with this rapid growth in demand, are our devices and networks prepared?
Quality of VideoThere are many different levels of video quality and most sites will let you choose your quality level dependent on your network speed and device. It is likely that when mobile streaming becomes more popular there will be a rise in demand for higher quality content, especially for larger mobile devices like tablets.
Capability of Existing Devices
The latest smartphone devices have high-end CPU chips and large amounts of RAM. Some of the latest devices have 4k streaming capability and are able to handle 3D gaming capability. For example:* The HTC 10 is HTC’s flagship phone of 2016. Running on the Android 6.0 Marshmallow system, it has QHD display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor and 4g RAM. For audio the device has Hi-Res Audio with 24-bit processing (2).* Sony XPeria Z5 with a 1080×1920 pixel resolution IPS LCD display, Quad-core Cortex A53 and 3g RAM.
While most devices have the capability to play and stream videos built in, a large number do not have 1080p definition (including Apple’s Iphone 6S). The smartphone manufacturers seem to be keeping up with, and indeed ahead of, consumers needs. As long as we upgrade our phones regularly we will be able to enjoy mobile movies when we want.
Most content suppliers have a mobile app which allows their content to be streamed over different mobile operating systems. Some providers, like Netflix, limit which devices they will stream HD content too regardless of the devices capability (3). Currently this list includes Google Nexus 5X, 6 and 6P; HTC One A9; LG G3; Motorola Droid Turbo and Moto X; Samsung Galaxy Notes 4 and 5; and Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+ (4). At this point in time all other devices will only receive 420p quality streams from Netflix.
Content Accessibility to different shows and movies varies across the world. This is due to changing licensing and distribution rights between countries. On the internet the limiting of video content based on your country and its licensing agreements is called geo-blocking. Geo-blocking is an issue for countries who do not have access to many shows and movies that can be easily viewed in other locations.
Capability of the Networks
There are many areas across the world where mobile coverage is scant at best. There are areas which have black spots and frequent drop outs, and other places where the mobile services just do not reach. These are good places to go if you want to literally unplug. However, they are not good if you want to ring someone let alone stream a video.
Where mobile reception is available 3G and 4G networks can be fast, making streaming easy with low buffering times. Unfortunately mobile data can be very expensive, far more than home broadband. Many companies enforce limitations on how much data can be used and charge for excess usage. This limits how much a person can, or is willing, to stream in order to avoid unexpected ‘bill shock’. Some companies offer unmetered streaming on certain content, like sports, which the network seems to handle well.
But what if the telecommunication companies did raise the limit or lift it completely? Would their networks be able to handle the sudden increase in load across the system? It is likely that with an increase in load there would be a degradation in network performance. This would affect the ability for consumers to stream video to their mobile device.
Recently a major telecommunications supplier in Australia has twice had its entire mobile network collapse (5), an experience that affected thousands of customers. Much to their embarrassment, this actually happened twice within a short time-frame. This lead to Telstra giving it’s customers a ‘Free Data Day’, where all their mobile customers were able to download as much mobile data as they wanted for free. By the end of the day customers across Australia had downloaded 2,686 terabytes of data and there were complaints in some areas of slow speeds (6).
Currently our mobile devices can stream mobile movies, some at higher quality than others. We are able to get varying degrees of quality content streamed to our devices from multiple sources. Our biggest concern for future growth is the capability of existing networks to supply demand for an affordable price and without collapsing the system.