Bad news for mobile network operators: According to new research from Bytemobile, on any given day, less than 10 percent of users watch video on their mobile devices — but those users account for about two-fifths of all network traffic. That’s a problem that will only get worse as mobile video viewing and video chat usage becomes more mainstream.
The growth of mobile video traffic follows the rapid increase of video traffic as a percentage of overall Internet traffic. But unlike wireline or cable networks, available bandwidth on most mobile networks is fairly constrained. The latest research, which was issued as part of network management firm Bytemobile’s “Mobile Minute Metrics” report shows that during any given 24-hour period, just 9 percent of users access video on their mobile devices. That’s not a lot, yet that usage generate about 38 percent of all mobile network traffic.
Not only is mobile video data limited to a certain number of users, but it’s also limited to the number of video files that users are watching. According to Bytemobile, 40 percent of all total video data on mobile networks comes from the top 3 percent of videos requested. Viewers tend not to stick around for large amounts of video, either — Bytemobile reports that the average mobile video requested is about 5 minutes long, but on average users only watch about a minute of each video, and a majority drop off after only watching a few seconds of mobile video.
One caveat: As a provider of mobile network management equipment, Bytemobile has a vested interest in pointing out how overwhelming mobile video traffic could be on mobile networks. But the data is troubling, especially since mobile video usage is still in its earliest stages. With less than 10 percent of users accounting for nearly half of all mobile data traffic, operators will need to think about how to deal with the threat of mainstream adoption. That will become even more true as tablet adoption becomes more widespread on mobile networks.
The growth of video on mobile networks is one reason why operators in the U.S. like AT&T and Verizon have implemented usage-based pricing for mobile users. Unfortunately, usage-based pricing might make people more thoughtful about how much video they view on their mobile devices but it could also hurt innovation, not just among video providers but other wireless application makers as well.