A fascinating and thorough interview with du’s brilliant Imran Malik, mostly concerning the challenges and opportunities presented by video over LTE…
IP&TV News: Hi Imran. You’ll be appearing at TV Connect 2014, discussing the enabling of video over LTE. What are the main challenges this presents?
Imran K. Malik: Mobile broadband has created a world of opportunities and opened up new revenue streams for operators. Opportunities are often coupled with challenges. The crucial question is how to take advantage of mobile broadband opportunities while at the same time maintaining and increasing revenue from communication services. LTE networks can deliver mobile broadband and communication services with greater capacity and lower latency. However, as there is no circuit-switched voice domain in LTE, the mobile industry will adopt a globally interoperable IP-based voice, video-calling and messaging solution for LTE, which also enables development of new innovative multimedia services. As mobile broadband continues to expand, there is a great opportunity to build a whole new telecoms world with innovative communication services over IP networks, with real and lasting value for operators and consumers.
What network optimization strategies should telcos explore in this area?
With the industry aligned telecom solution, operators can now start commercial deployments of a telecom-grade, globally interoperable voice and video calling solution over LTE – even before LTE is fully deployed. Increased LTE streaming leads to an exponential increase in network traffic, adding to network congestion. But the problem that operators really have to manage isn’t the amount of video that’s sent through their networks—it’s the radio access network capacity, which is strained by the number and frequency of connections that subscribers have to make in order to retrieve videos on their mobile devices. To counter this, service providers must implement congestion-aware video optimization solutions that intelligently analyse subscriber traffic and monitor independent video flows so as to detect congestion which would then be optimized to provide a better user experience. Optimization solutions can also be deployed in mobile networks that have probes in the radio access network infrastructure. The solutions detect and report potential congestion so that operators can pre-empt it from occurring in the network, thus optimizing the demand on LTE networks and improving response times for subscribers who are attempting to access certain videos.
And how do you best ensure the best QoE for the consumer?
QoS involves a framework consisting of numerous standards that are widely used in telecoms to manage traffic in ways that differentiate subscribers and services to improve overall performance. QoS enables network operators to isolate traffic into flows based on attributes, such as traffic type (voice, video or control) or application needs (throughput, latency and/or jitter), and then to transport each flow accordingly. QoS also addresses subscriber SLAs by prioritizing traffic for critical users and applications, providing deterministic latency and jitter (required by real-time applications), and minimizing network congestion. Most mobile subscribers who sign up for LTE services are lured by a network that’s faster than their current devices are capable of handling, one that allows them to access high-quality content when they want it, where they want it.
Enhanced quality of experience (QoE) is another risk, and LTE provides mobile operators with a low-latency, high-bandwidth network that’s significantly superior to 3G; encouraging LTE subscribers to consume more data than the average 3G customer. Ironically, however, LTE QoE is impacted by the network congestion that often results from this increased consumption of data. A faster LTE network means faster, more streamlined access to mobile broadband, because LTE allows operators to transfer more bits of information on the same spectrum. But as mobile subscribers begin to take notice of the speed at which video can be streamed on an LTE network, they’re also realizing they can now access content at much higher resolutions than ever before on their devices, creating a good user experience and the further consumption of data bandwidth and data volume. By applying Policy Control and Assignment of QoS Rules operators can overcome this challenge.
What have been the most exciting developments in LTE in the MENA region, and what challenges does it present also?
With LTE, end users benefit from improved data transfer and communications. Operators also benefit from LTE by optimizing this network infrastructure to provide high-capacity and high-speed data communications. When operators deploy LTE in the Middle East, they enhance the voice call experience with HD voice and beyond, also enabling convenient way to connect services like chat, video and file transfer to the voice call. This gives users superior voice quality during calls and seamless using additional communication methods while talking.
In addition to this previously, operators engaged with separate vendors for caching, encoding and decoding, pinching and throttling, and service delivery. But due to the evolved nature of today’s networks, operators in the MENA region are trying to consolidate and execute an end-to-end optimization solution from a single vendor for optimal reliability, performance and actionable insights.
Is this your first visit to TV Connect? Is there anything you’re especially looking forward to about the event?
Managing video on the networks is one of the main issues mobile operators need to address if they hope to maintain their current revenue levels while continuing to deliver quality services and valuable subscriber experiences. Furthermore higher consumption of mobile video doesn’t necessarily translate to greater customer spending. In fact, as consumption soars, average revenue per user (ARPU) will drop, which is why it’s vital that operators work toward reducing their cost base by addressing the issue of video management with intelligent video optimization. During this event we want to exchange our challenges with other operators so that we can explore ways to mitigate this.