Report: Mobile video experience improves in 59 countries

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Opensignal, the mobile analytics company, has published its latest global State of Mobile Video Experience report.

In one year, Mobile Video Experience has significantly improved in 59 per cent of 100 countries analysed

Users now experienced ‘Very Good mobile Video Experience’ in 22 countries, including major markets like Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK. Similarly, 21 countries moved into the ‘Good’ category this year, including Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Russia and Vietnam. France was the only country to jump two categories, rising from ‘Fair’ to ‘Very Good’ in just one year. In total, 59 countries changed Video Experience category.

The top 11 countries are all in Europe, with Norway, the Czech Republic and Austria taking the top three positions. Those three are joined by Denmark, Hungary and the Netherlands as the only countries which feature in the ‘Excellent’ category for mobile Video Experience in 2019. The highest-ranked non-European country is Singapore, which falls into the Very Good category.

The UK achieved ‘Very Good’ ranking, following an increase of 8.7 points. It also overtook Greece to reach number 19 in Europe in terms of Video Experience.

Top-ranked countries for mobile Download Speed were far from top in Video Experience

South Korean users’ experience ranked first for download speed yet 21st for video, while Canadians’ were third fastest for download speed in Opensignal’s State of Mobile report, but just 22nd for video. This contrast between results in part reflects the way wireless operators routinely manage mobile video traffic differently to file downloads in order to prevent the vast quantities of video data hurting the experience of other mobile apps and services.

The US is lagging behind on mobile video as carriers face a spectrum crunch

While there was an improvement in Americans’ Video Experience — with the score increasing from 46.7 to 53.8 points — it was not enough to shift US consumers up a gear into the ‘Good’ category. Instead, Video Experience remained stuck in the ‘Fair’ category. Americans had the lowest Video Experience score of any of the G7 economically leading countries as US carriers struggle with the combination of enormous mobile video consumption and insufficient new spectrum. Opensignal’s results highlight the need for the release of more mid-band spectrum to help US carriers meet the mobile video needs of Americans.

For the first time, six countries rate as ‘Excellent’ for mobile video quality

In Opensignal’s analysis of 100 countries, as previosuly noted, only mobile users in Norway, the Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Hungary and the Netherlands enjoyed the top category of mobile Video Experience, although overall, users in 37 per cent of countries enjoyed either a ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent’ experience. Notably, in 2018 no country rated as ‘Excellent’.

28 per cent of countries ranked just ‘Fair’ for mobile Video Experience

Those countries in the ‘Fair’ category include large markets like Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, and even the US By contrast, in 9 per cent of countries users suffered a ‘Poor’ mobile Video Experience, meaning mobile video is practically unwatchable.

Middle East and Africa see video experience setbacks as well as improvements

Four countries moved into the ‘Very Good’ category for the first time across the Middle East and Africa in 2019: UAE, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. Leading African countries narrowly missed out on joining these three in the top category for the regions, with users in South Africa enjoying a mobile Video Experience score of 63.3 —just behind Lebanon on 63.8 —followed by Tunisia with 60.8 and Morocco on 56.6.

These regions continued to see some of the lowest mobile Video Experience scores anywhere in the world. In 2018, ten countries across Africa and the Middle East rated as ‘Poor’ and this has improved only slightly, with eight countries in 2019. In both Libya and Iraq the mobile Video Experience of users worsened by 1.0 and 6.9 points, highlighting the challenges of offering mobile services in countries which continue to suffer from geopolitical instability.

Mobile TV is mainstream

Viewing smartphone video is extremely important to consumers in 2019. New video apps continue to launch on mobile first —most recently TikTok—while video has become a part of the fabric of social networks that started out distributing just text and photos: on Facebook and Instagram, 51 per cent and 35 pr cent of US consumers respectively now watch video on their smartphone.

Smartphone viewing is common but video app offline modes are hassle

Mobile is now a central part of multiscreen TV streaming services because smartphone screens are larger than ever, and everyone has a phone with them at all times. For both Apple TV+ and Disney+, the smartphone is a significant part of the offer: Every iPhone bought includes one year of free access to Apple TV+. The mobile app for Disney+ was downloaded 3.2 million times in the first 24 hours after the service launched, even though the service launched in just three countries: the US, Canada and the Netherlands. Older services are no different in the importance they place on the mobile screen: Netflix has reported that 25 per cent of total streaming is happening on mobile networks.

However, consumers often have to use these apps’ offline functions to download programmes or movies ahead of time to sidestep potential issues with the cellular connection. Opensignal has found 43.4 per cent of US consumers report they have experienced stuttering or freezing when watching video on their smartphone. But having to remember to download a video onto a smartphone is inconvenient for consumers because it’s easy to forget to download a video ahead of time.

5G will transform the mobile viewing experience

On relatively small smartphone screens that typically have a display that is diagonal six inches (15.24 cm) or less, there is little reason to offer 4K video streaming. However, even offering HD video at 720p or 1080p uses enormous amounts of data per hour of viewing.To enjoy the best mobile picture quality, Netflix uses 3GB of data per hour of viewing. Netflix only recommends this option for those on unlimited data plans.

Even on the default Automatic setting, a smartphone user will consume 250Mb of data per hour, which will rapidly eat through data capped plans.Wireless operators understand the pressure that mobile video viewing places on their network capacity and the potential for widespread video consumption to damage the experience of using other services. Given limited wireless spectrum capacity, carriers routinely offer tight data caps on plans, or they manage video traffic to reduce the priority on their networks or to downgrade the quality of the video streams. For example, carriers often automatically convert the picture quality of video from 1080p full HD, down to 720p, or even to just standard definition quality.

5G enables wireless operators to use new very high-frequency and high-capacity wireless spectrum, enabling them to support many millions of more simultaneous smartphone users all watching HD video. The key bands are in the 3-6GHz range; although most of these frequencies are not yet available in the US, they are being deployed in Europe, Korea, Australia and in select other parts of Asia.

Today, there are not enough 5G smartphones in use for the impact of 5G on mobile video viewing to be visible. But in 2020, Opensignal expects that 5G users will be able to experience a consistent HD video stream more often and in more locations thanin 2019. However, this is dependent on the availability of this critical mid-band spectrum. In parts of south-east Asia, the US and South America availability of this spectrum is limited in the short term.While carriers will launch 5G, the report does not expect to see the same immediate boost to wireless capacity.


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