Video Streaming Over Mobile: A Win-Win-Win

Everyone wants to get in on video distribution explosion, and wireless service providers are no exception. But when consumers are watching video on their mobile devices, the high data charges push them to watch over Wi-Fi, avoiding using their cellular service.

However, new services from wireless providers, such as T-Mobile’s Binge On launched late last year, are showing consumers that they can, in fact, stream video (a relatively lower quality video) that doesn’t count against customers’ data plans.

The lower quality video streams can be sent using less data, which is a key for the service to work. T-Mobile initially limited video quality for Binge On users to 480p resolution (roughly the same resolution as a DVD). This brought complaints from some streaming services companies, especially Google’s YouTube. After the criticism, T-Mobile made some improvements and it offers video providers the option to opt-out of the service. It also works with video services to optimize their streams to avoid unacceptable low quality that could damage their brands. The improvements seemed to have satisfied YouTube as it was recently added to its list.

The habit of viewing mobile video over Wi-Fi is well entrenched. Introducing the service that doesn’t penalize wireless customers for watching video over their cellular connections may be a smart move toward offering higher-quality full video services in the future. Offering the service for no extra charge could also help T-Mobile to bring in much-needed new customers.

While consumers get used to unlimited video streaming without worrying about incurring extra data charges, mobile carriers are working on improving mobile technology and acquiring additional spectrum. It’s also likely that in the not-so-distant future, the carriers and/or video content providers could use more advanced video codecs, such as HEVC/H.265, to offer better/higher quality video.

Last, it’s also a gain for video services companies who want to reach their subscribers everywhere they happen to be. It has been reported that companies such as Netflix and Hulu have seen usage growth through joining the video streaming over mobile service. In an announcement from T-Mobile in Mid-March, it claims “One video provider has seen the number of active viewers spike 90% and watch-times nearly triple from customers with limited high-speed data.”

This is likely just the beginning. If Binge On logs more success, it’s likely that other wireless carriers will follow and offer competing services. If that happens, the video delivery ecosystem will add one more sector to the already crowded field.