Streaming Media Europe
The smartphone has overtaken the tablet as the go-to device for TV Everywhere consumption; the U.K. is poised to lead the world in mobile connectivity; telcos will gain more spectrum, but not quickly enough; and LTE-Broadcast is coming to market.
Video is the largest and fastest-growing segment of mobile data traffic, which in turn is driving significant increases in internet traffic. IGR projects that mobile video will account for 71 percent of all mobile network data traffic in 2016, and according to the Mobile Analytics Report, published by Citrix in September, video generates 42 percent of daily data traffic volume on any given network.
In its Mobility Report (June 2014) Ericsson concludes that rising smartphone subscriptions are the main driver for the rise in video over mobile. In Western Europe, mobile data traffic is expected to grow more than 8 times up to 2019. The improved speed and capacity of high-speed packet access (HSPA) networks, combined with the deployment of LTE, will fuel consumer demand for a better user experience.
Globally, Ericsson finds that video is the largest contributor to traffic volumes on any device and represents 35 percent of the mobile data traffic associated with smartphones and 50 percent on tablets. These figures are roughly comparable to those from BBC iPlayer, for which requests to view from tablets (37 percent) and smartphones (24 percent) now dominate. Yet smartphone usage on iPlayer is growing more quickly (at 32 percent year-on-year) than tablet video requests (25 percent), a trend mirrored in macro findings from the latest Adobe Video Benchmark.
Indeed, the smartphone has overtaken the tablet as the go-to device for TV Everywhere consumption.
Adobe reports that 13.6 percent of video starts are instigated from smartphones, while 13 percent come from tablets. Video requests to smartphones rose 59 percent over the last year, more than double the 29 percent rate of increase of tablet requests. Adobe attributes this growth in smartphone video use to larger screen sizes (the iPhone 6 Plus, for instance, boasts a 5.5" display) and rising penetration of the devices.
Ofcom figures report that 44 percent of U.K. homes own a tablet (up from 25 percent in 2013) and that six out of 10 Britons own a smartphone (Deloitte puts the figure at 35 million people) and are consuming video in various forms, including streaming movies and TV, UGC, and video telephony, over both cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
U.S. and U.K. users prefer Wi-Fi to cellular networks because of better network speed, cost, and reliability, according to Ericsson.
Global mobile subscriptions are expected to reach 9.3 billion by 2019, with 5.6 billion of these being for smartphones.
“The rapid pace of smartphone uptake has been phenomenal and is set to continue,” Douglas Gilstrap, senior vice president and head of strategy at Ericsson, says in the report. “It took more than 5 years to reach the first billion smartphone subscriptions, but it will take less than 2 [years] to hit the two billion mark.”
Its research also noted that by 2019, almost two-thirds of the world’s population will be covered by 4G/LTE networks.
As a result, video advertising on mobile phones is on the march. In the first half of 2014 mobile video advertising grew 196 percent to £63.9 million (about $100.4 million) and is now the fastest-growing digital ad format, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau U.K. Digital Adspend in a report conducted by PwC.
“Mobile’s share of the digital ad pie has tripled in 2 years, accounting for a fifth of total spend—rising to nearly a third of display and over half of social media ads,” says Dan Bunyan, manager, PwC. “As 4G becomes more prevalent and phone screens become larger, it will play an even bigger role in driving digital ad spend—particularly video.”
4G on Fast Track
4G services are leading to a rapid increase in demand for mobile video, with subscribers on 4G mobile networks being 1.5 times more likely to watch video than subscribers on 3G networks, according to Citrix.
The report found that 4G subscribers are more likely to watch long-form video content and watch it at a higher resolution. “LTE (4G) clearly drives increased demand for mobile video,” Anna Yong, senior product marketing manager at Citrix, said in an accompanying release. “On average, each request results in longer viewing times than 3G as demand shifts from more short-form content such as that hosted by YouTube, to longer-form content such as that hosted by Netflix.”
However, European 4G network coverage lags behind that of the U.S., where at least 19 percent of the country had coverage compared to just 2 percent in Europe at the start of 2014, according to mobile operator trade body GSMA.
John Giusti, GSMA’s head of policy, blamed this on delays in the release of the 800 MHz band. “There is not yet meaningful take up of 4G in Eastern Europe, and in Western Europe the percentage is only 3 percent compared to 25 percent in the U.S. and 24 percent in Japan,” he says.
There are business impacts. “In Europe live streaming from cameras in the field is just starting up,” says Gustav Emrich, JVC's European product manager. “There is a demand, but in terms of network coverage and rollout of 4G LTE, Europe is far behind the U.S. Even in Germany if you stray too far from a major urban centre connectivity will fall away.”
Neelie Kroes, the outgoing EU commissioner for digital agenda, made it her mission to urge member states to license their 4G spectrum, facilitate investment in wireless broadband, and extend coverage beyond urban areas. In a keynote to the industry at IBC she said, “It’s time for EU countries to put 4G deployment at the top of their digital to-do list, and support a true digital single market.”
The EU expects 80 percent of the EU population to be covered by LTE by 2018. The GSMA projects that LTE will make up 53 percent of connections in Europe by 2020, and coverage will reach 91 percent of the population. Those projections mean rapid growth, which began in 2014 as operators in most major European territories began rollout, and will really fly in 2015.
Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s largest carrier, is rolling out a 4G network in Germany. Other carriers include Dutch operator KPN, Norway’s Telenor, and Telia Sweden—but it is the U.K. market and in particular Everything Everywhere (EE) that are leading the way.
The joint venture, forged by T-Mobile and Orange (and bought by BT in February 2015), has made the most of its full year jump-start on competitors. In return for yielding a slice of its 1800MHz spectrum in 2012, EE got to use part of its existing 3G bandwidth to launch 4G, and by end of 2014 had 6 million subscribers and over 75 percent national U.K. coverage, with 100 percent on the cards by 2016.
After launching a year later, in August 2013, Vodafone and O2 are aiming for 98 percent coverage by end of 2015. Deloitte expects total 4G subscriber numbers to exceed 10 million by the end of 2014 in the U.K. Regulator Ofcom demands that 4G reach 98 percent of the U.K. population by the end of 2017, but rollout looks ahead of that target.
So much so that U.K. networks are exploring advanced services. After a trial across East London’s Tech City (home to Google and multiple high-tech businesses), EE plans to spread LTE-A, promising speeds up to 300Mbps to other major U.K. cities by early 2015. Vodafone has announced the same, beginning with London, Liverpool, and Birmingham. Vodafone Spain has already rolled out LTE-A in three cities, and Swisscom is preparing to launch LTE-A in 2015. O2 parent company Telefonica has begun testing LTE-A in Germany.
EE's ambitions further include trials of a 400Mbps service, which would make it the fastest 4G provider in the world. Those speeds are likely to first be seen at Wembley Stadium, the national sports venue in north London, with a wider rollout planned for 2016.
From lagging far behind mobile broadband economies such as South Korea and even the U.S., by 2017 the U.K. may have leapt into the lead.
So confident are telecom operators of business based on video that two of them are launching TV services. EE will market a £300 (about $471.51) STB with access to Freeview channels and BBC iPlayer. This will compete directly with YouView, the collaboration between broadcasters and broadband companies including the BBC and TalkTalk. While it was a home TV service on launch, EE plans to migrate the service to its 4G network. In response, Vodafone—which already runs multiplatform TV services in Germany, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands—also announced its intention to open a similar offer in the U.K.
Reporting company earnings in November, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said that one-fifth of its mobile data in Europe is from its 4G network. “Video and audio today is 40 percent of the total traffic. Video is increasing to almost 90 percent in Europe,” he said. “YouTube and Facebook are helping to drive this growth.”
The EU is also investing €700 million (about $872 million) in 5G technology, which is reckoned to be deliver speeds around 10 times faster than 4G connections. It’s also looking for commercial spending to bring the total to more than €3 billion (about $3.74 billion). 5G standardisation isn’t expected until at least 2020 although LTE and LTE-A is considered part of it.
“We need to think beyond borders and come up with a global approach towards 5G by the end of 2015,” Kroes urged. “5G will offer totally new possibilities to connect people, and also things—cars, houses, energy infrastructures. However, we are still a decade away from 5G deployment and we still do not have an EU-wide 4G network on which 5G will be built.”
In November, Nokia signalled its intention to build a test case for 5G in the north of its native Finland.
Europe Poised to Open Up Spectrum
The debate about spectrum can be a dry topic, but the decisions on its allocation have far-reaching consequences for industry and consumers.
The immediate debate hinges on the 700MHz UHF band currently used to service 250 million people in Europe with free-to-air digital terrestrial TV.
FTA broadcasters might have to cede this frequency to mobile operators after a recommendation to the European Commission. Pascal Lamy’s report, commissioned by the EC and published in September, proposed that 700MHz be dedicated to mobile usage by 2020.
The report also proposed that the remaining UHF spectrum below 700MHz be safeguarded for broadcasters until 2030.
Debate over the resource intensified during the year with compelling arguments heard from both sides. Those in the mobile camp maintain that even getting hold of 700MHz to boost 4G and LTE-Broadcast capacity) by 2020 is several years too late.
“Limiting Europe’s flexibility on the possible coexistence of mobile and digital broadcast services until 2030 will discourage investment in world-leading mobile networks,” Anne Bouverot, director general of GSMA, said in response to Lamy.
“Europe is at risk of falling behind in terms of global competitiveness,” added GSMA’s Giusti. At IBC he questioned whether terrestrial TV or mobile provided greater economic contribution.
“The answer is unambiguous. In 2013 the economic value of mobile in the EU was €269 billion (about $335 billion) compared to €48 billion (about $59.8 billion) for digital terrestrial television (DTT) and radio. We estimate that the divide will grow stronger with mobile value increasing 77 percent in the next decade and TV dropping by 50 percent in the same time frame.”
EU figures suggest that viewing to DTT has dropped by 10 percent in the past year. Some broadcasters are moving toward a broadband-only content delivery—the BBC’s decision to axe BBC3 from the airwaves and make it online-only from 2015 is a case in point.
Countering the broadcast lobby’s argument that DTT provides valuable public service, Guillaume Lebrun, director of spectrum and technology policy at Qualcomm, says, “Mobile is also an enabling force in ecommerce, vehicle, and home connectivity, health and education.”
The EBU naturally takes the opposite line. The case against the cost of clearing DTT from the spectrum outweighed the benefit of the switch by a factor of four, it says. “There is no proven demand for 700 MHz yet, and 800 MHz is not fully deployed,” says Simon Fell, EBU director of technology and innovation. Recognising that mobile traffic will increase by 50-60 percent by 2017 he suggested most of that growth will be absorbed by Wi-Fi.
Comcast weighed into the debate with an eye-catching calculation that were mobile broadband charges chalked up the same way as Wi-Fi is used to stream video, it would cost $2,000 to watch every episode of Breaking Bad in a month.
Protecting the spectrum until at least 2030 is also important to protect investment in new public broadcast services such as HEVC codecs for UHD. Tests on this in 2014 included sending 4K live feeds of the World Cup from Brazil and over the DTT infrastructure in the U.K., organised by the BBC.
“The Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast live to 190 million people. How is that possible over mobile?” Fell asked. “The value to the public is immeasurable and cannot be reduced to a rolling 2-year contract.”
In the U.K., Ofcom is assessing the situation and believes that even if 700MHz were allocated to mobile free to view TV can still be safeguarded. The German government and its FTA broadcasters come to a similar conclusion and plan to use HEVC and new DTT transmission scheme DVBT2 in a rollout beginning 2017. For broadcasters this means DVBT2 can be used to deliver mobile broadband services and should prevent any culling of bandwidth below 700MHz.
“I welcome the migration by terrestrial networks from 700MHz but to discuss spectrum below that would destroy the DTT platform,” says Lars Buckland, secretary general, Broadcast Networks Europe.
The debate is characterised as black and white, when in reality a balance needs to be found. “Rather than exercising judgement we could take a massive gamble based on ideological belief or political imperative,” says Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Digital UK. “Now is not the time to risk Europe’s most popular TV platform on shaky business models and uncertain economics. DTT will be the backbone of free-to-air broadcast for many years to come. This is not about sticking our head in the sand. If we don’t innovate in the way we use spectrum we don’t deserve to hold on to it.”
LTE Broadcast: From Test to Commercial Reality
The broadcast mode of LTE (eMBMS/Evolved Multimedia Broadcast and Multicast Service), in combination with HEVC and MPEG DASH, is being tested to address growing consumer demand for video services.
Video-intensive bandwidth demands explain why mobile video is such a drain on the network, but by multicasting live content over cellular networks, carriers could conserve valuable 4G capacity. By using LTE-Broadcast, carriers could reduce demand on networks by 12.5 percent and by 15 percent at peak hours, according to iGR.
At the beginning of the year, South Korean mobile network operator KT began the world’s first national LTE-Broadcast service, preceding a series of trials by operators in the U.S and Europe.
The most visible was a collaboration by the BBC, EE, Qualcomm, and Huawei at Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games in July. Three events were streamed simultaneously using eMBMS in MPEG-DASH and sent over IP to a Huawei server situated within the EE test labs. Content was encapsulated within multicast and transmitted on the 2.6GHz spectrum. Those attending the showcase in Glasgow were be able to watch the footage on their mobile devices via 4G broadcast.
EE plans another stadium trial in Q1 2015 with 4K content with commercial deployments earmarked for 2016, again beginning with stadiums.
Stadiums have been the focus of tests to date since they provide a concentrated population of smartphone users whose network congestion could be relieved by LTE-B. On top of that, telcos and rightsholders spy opportunities to deliver in-stadia services such as live stream feeds, replays, and statistics. Airports are other target venues where people are most likely to stream the same content. While unicast on-demand video will remain the main delivery model, LTE-B promises useful capacity management.
Mike Wright, group managing director of Australia’s Telstra, which conducted its first LTE-B test at Melbourne Cricket Ground last January, says that there are two main benefits. “One is about the way we more efficiently design a network which is going to save us costs, and then there is potential for new services and new revenue streams. When you put the two together you have a business case.”
Telstra’s test used 6GB of bandwidth to air three live streams, rather than 2GB of bandwidth per channel for each connected user. Other applications include broadcast to moving vehicles (connected cars), digital signage, and emergency service broadcasts.
“There will be a core range of applications for this tech, which will get it started,” says Wright. “Once established in the network, it will begin to grow on its own. We just need to get it started.”
Vodafone partnered with Ericsson to test the tech during a soccer match at Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany; KPN did the same at Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena, as did Orange at Roland Garros and Poland’s Polkomtel at Warsaw’s National Stadium.
In the U.S., AT&T and Verizon, which tested at some at Indy car races, are expected to deploy LTE Broadcast commercially sometime in 2015. At August’s Oppenheimer Technology, Internet & Communications Conference in Boston, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo called the advent of the technology “the pivotal point that starts to change the way content is delivered over a mobile handset which opens up content into the wireless world.”
In July, Nokia and a consortia including German research body Institut für Rundfunktechnik launched Europe’s first eMBMS trials for national broadcasting. This trial in Munich was the first to apply the technology on the UHF spectrum, using part of the 700MHz band to broadcast over a 200 square-km area. 700MHz is the hotly contested spectrum used by DTT in Europe.
“Our approach is to learn if there is a new convergent system benefiting TV and mobile for both linear and on-demand personalised video,” says Klaus Illgner-Fehns, managing director, IRT. “Is there a unified air interface which can serve millions of users at the same time and provide business opportunities for both mobile and broadcast?”
According to Nokia, LTE-B promises new revenue sources for operators by distributing TV over existing mobile broadband infrastructure. Subscribers would be able to watch TV on their devices without eating into their mobile data plan and independent of network load. It would allow for a free-to-air or pay TV service while broadcasters and content providers could extend their reach to mobile users and open the door for a multitude of interactive services.
The drive to LTE has not yet been as strong in the region as in North America because Europe lacks a harmonised approach to technology rollouts. However, Ericsson is among those that suggest the lag is also the result of factors such as having well-developed 3G networks.
Devices are another impediment to wide consumer adoption, although Qualcomm has begun to introduce eMBMS support as standard issue in its Snapdragon chipsets.
Speaking on the topic at trade event IBC, Frank Hermans, Ericsson’s head of TV and media sales, said, “We see the 2015-2019 time frame holding significant revenue opportunities once you bring the ecosystem partners together of content, stadia, mobile, and technology. There is real money in LTE Broadcast. Innovation will only increase.”
Cellular Opens New Markets
There is a profound technology shift in electronic newsgathering (ENG) underway as wireless technologies augment and in some cases supplant satellite systems.
Claimed as Europe’s first cellular newsgathering fleet (CNG), BT Sport outfitted three vehicles with LiveU LU500 units and Xtender remote antennas. Each LU500 backpack can be connected wirelessly (up to 1,000 metres) or via Ethernet to the Xtender that sits on top of each vehicle.
“We now have a fleet-footed and effective way of allowing sports journalists to get the story back to us,” explains Andy Beale, chief engineer with BT Sport.
News agency ITN signed a multi-year contract with BT’s Media and Broadcast division, to provide location news teams with wireless transmission technology across London.
The camera-mounted RF system called BT Media Live will allow ITN camera crews to broadcast live or transfer footage wirelessly to its studios from locations throughout the capital linked through BT Tower.
BT also plans to cover other U.K. cities with hubs to service the RF system. “There are so many news stories in our cities, but covering them can be a logistical headache when you have to secure a connection, find somewhere to park the truck, and book satellite space. Add the costs of maintaining your own receive sites and the challenge for broadcasters is clear,” says Mark Wilson-Dunn, vice president of BT Media & Broadcast.
In the U.S., Spanish-language broadcaster Noticias MundoFOX based its entire ENG operation on LIVE+ 20/20 cellular-bonded transmitters from Dejero. MundoFOX has deployed a transmitter at each of its bureaus in Mexico City; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and NYC, with two LIVE+ servers installed in the network’s headquarters in LA. With feeds coming into the servers from the transmitters, operators can access the content and route it as required for playout to a live broadcast, or archive it for use in a later production.
“Budget is always a large consideration for a start-up news network,” says Armando Acevedo, the network’s director of operations. “The ability to cover live, breaking news from the source is a critical differentiator but can also be a major expense area, especially if the station has to maintain costly satellite vehicles.”
The farther away from sports venues and metropolitan areas you go, the more likely satcoms are to remain the first, and in many cases, only, system guaranteed to work. You don’t have to stray into war zones or disaster aftermaths, either; rural locales in Europe are chronically underserved by reliable cellular connections.
Consequently, a hybrid of new lighter-weight, portable Ka-band satellite terminals and 3G/4G on-camera and backpack systems (which will also connect to satellite) will be in most newsgatherers’ flyaway baggage.
“The future of newsgathering will rely on hybrid multi-mode systems providing live video over a multitude of communication infrastructures,” says Ali Zarkesh, product development director at Vislink. “While the use of cellular is increasing, if you base your whole communications policy on it you have to bare in mind the limitations.”
This article appears in the 2015 Streaming Media Europe Sourcebook as "The State of Mobile Video."