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5G alone won’t boost mobile video experience

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New data shows smartphone data consumption will quadruple in the US by 2025, driven by the aggressive rollout of 5G service. However, while 5G delivers the speed consumers want, it doesn’t mean mobile video experience will automatically improve.

Mobile bandwidth usage growth driven by video

Video will continue to be the primary driver of mobile data growth through 2025, according to Ericsson’s 2019 Mobility Report. The company says that global mobile data traffic reached almost 37 Exabytes per month in Q3 2019, up 68% on the same period in 2018. By 2025, mobile data traffic will have quadrupled, to 160 Exabytes a month. Video will grow its share of mobile data from 63% today to 74% by 2025.

Ericsson includes video apps, social media, advanced video applications, and embedded video in its estimates of video bandwidth growth. Some of the increase in video data consumption the company attributes to the increasing use of video in general websites. As well, the growing use of video sharing sites is a significant contributor, as is the growth in use of online video services. The company also says the move from 4G to 5G will be a significant factor.

4G to 5G migration boosts speed, usage

South Korea is an early adopter of 5G mobile network technology. In April, three operators switched on nationwide 5G services and attracted 3 million subscribers in the first five months. The 5G customers use an average of 33.7 GB per month, 65% more than for 4G customers.

What’s more, the 5G network delivered significant speed improvement. An Opensignal survey in June showed that average download speeds were 111.8 Mbps, 48% higher than for 4G users. Some lucky users have seen 1 GB download speeds.

5G alone might not boost video experience

Though South Korea is reaping the benefit of improved 5G mobile data speed, it might not translate into better video experience. Opensignal tracks video experience across many countries in the world. It calculates the index for each country by considering parameters such as picture quality, video loading time, and stall rate. To be sure, South Korea saw a significant improvement in Opensignal’s video experience metric. The countries score grew from 63.7 to 69.9 – a 10% increase – between 2018 and 2019. However, Singapore, Australia, and Taiwan enjoyed similar gains without the benefit of 5G.

As well, superspeed isn’t helping a new Korean streaming service called Wavve succeed. The service is a partnership between SK Telecom – one of the operators with nationwide 5G service – and three major Korean TV broadcasters. It is struggling to gain traction, with users pointing at technical issues as part of the problem.

Massive 5G growth in the U.S. might not improve mobile video experience

U.S. mobile consumers are about to see an enormous increase in mobile speed. Today, 91% enjoy connections on LTE/4G connections, the highest penetration in the world. Ericsson forecasts that by 2025, 74% of U.S. mobile subscriptions will be to 5G services. The rollout will cause a massive increase in data usage. Ericsson says that North American mobile data traffic per smartphone will double through 2021, and double again to reach 45 Gigabytes per month by 2025.

Despite the U.S. having deep penetration of LTE services, Opensignal says mobile video experience is just ho-hum. The company scores the U.S. at 53.8, while Canada receives a rating of 69.8. The U.S. also lags other American countries such as Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. The South Korea experience suggests that 5G alone will do little to improve the U.S. rating.

What will improve video experience

Opensignal says that restricted spectrum availability in South Korea could be part of the problem with the 5G video experience there. However, with 5G networks yet to experience huge numbers of video streamers there, it doesn’t seem to be a factor in the struggles of Wavve.

Opensignal suggests the U.S. could see similar conditions as in South Korea as 5G rolls out. If that is the case, video experience is unlikely to improve much due to the high-speed service. If video providers want to improve the experience of their service, they should look to their video platform. Ensuring it can deliver the scalability and quality needed is the best way to guarantee a great video experience.


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