By John Giere, CEO and President of Openwave Mobility
Four billion. That’s the number of people who watched at least a part of the London 2012 games.
That was a record. And the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi set another record.
Digital coverage exceeded traditional television broadcast. 60,000 hours were available on digital (streamed video) compared to 42,000 hours on traditional TV.
The Rio Olympics later this year is bound to break more records for broadcasters and for mobile operators.
Compared to the London Olympics when Queen Elizabeth parachuted in with James Bond, consumers today have far more “always connected” devices.
In 2012, there were 700 million smartphones. In 2016, according to eMarketer, nearly 2 billion subscribers will have smartphones.
Compared to 2012, the phones today have much higher screen resolutions too.
The iPhone at the time was the 4s, which was launched in October 2011. It had a Retina Display with 960-by-640-pixel resolution.
Today’s 6s comes with Retina HD and 1334 x 750. You get the picture!
Just two years ago, Rio hosted another major sporting event. The 2014 FIFA World Cup – although if you are a Brazilian football supporter, that might be a tournament best forgotten!
According to the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom, more than double the proportion of adults followed the Rio tournament on their smartphones than the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Research conducted by Openwave Mobility via Censuswide ahead of the 2012 World Cup highlighted the worries of European footy fans who wanted to catch the action on their phones.
A third of Europeans were worried about poor mobile video quality and fears of “bill shock” from their operators.
In Germany, one in two subscribers feared poor mobile video quality and chose the conventional TV instead to catch the action from Rio.
While mobile phones have moved on since the last games, the issues that are important to mobile subscribers have not changed.
Research we conducted last year among iPhone users on both sides of the pond found that buffering was their biggest annoyance.
In fact, poor mobile video streaming is now a bigger headache than a dropped call.
And 59 percent of subscribers will abandon a mobile video if they have to wait longer than 15 seconds.
On the blame game, the study found that one in two customers found fault with the carrier for poor mobile video service and one in three blamed the handset provider.
Notably, almost nobody blamed the content providers or the Over The Top (OTT) players.
It is a no-brainer. This summer’s Olympics will attract billions of viewers from across the world – and they will have a fistful of handheld devices.
There are opportunities and challenges. There are opportunities for mobile operators to secure extra revenue streams and introduce competitive mobile video packages to set themselves apart in the market.
The challenges? Quality of Experience (QoE) is everything. Irate subscribers often equate to churn. Mobile operators can ill-afford that.
Technology available today allows carriers to manage encrypted and unencrypted traffic effectively in real-time and lower bit rates for even the most popular video services such as YouTube.
Talking of encrypted data, carriers should also be mindful of the increasing levels of secure data streams on networks.
At the start of 2014, secure traffic levels were only around 10-20 percent.
By 2015, encrypted traffic levels had reached 60 percent in several regions and before the end of 2016, this could reach nearly 80 percent.
Why is this a challenge? This is referred to as the “the internet going dark” for mobile operators.
It becomes almost impossible for carriers to manage and gain insight into this traffic.
That in turn can impact QoE. And that’s bad news.
But there’s good news too. 2015 research we conducted among the iPhone users found that 39 percent of respondents were in favour of paying extra for good quality mobile video services.
The most discerning and high-value subscribers were willing to pay the most for a buffer-free experience.
In a nutshell, find the sweet spot for pricing and launch a stellar video package. Records will tumble – on the field and across the industry!