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Win and keep 5G subscribers

Dec 2, 2021 | By Jim Brickmeier
5G network rollouts are picking up speed, but recent market surveys suggest consumers are unclear about the benefits of the fifth-generation wireless standard and hesitant to upgrade their mobile broadband connections as a result. With consumer interest in video streaming at an all-time high, communications service providers should consider new mobile-optimised video technologies that can improve consumers' viewing experience wherever they are, bolstering the value proposition for 5G in the minds of consumers.

5G, the latest standard for wireless networks, remains a huge area of investment for communications service providers (CSPs) around the globe. With its ability to deliver data at gigabit speeds (up to 20 Gbps in theory) and with much less latency than 4G LTE networks (< 1 ms), 5G promises to unlock a whole new range of business opportunities for CSPs.  Enterprising network operators are building advanced 5G networks that form the foundation on which smart cities, connected cars, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) applications, cloud gaming, and more are powered. But while network operators around the globe have been rushing to roll out new 5G networks, consumers in key markets have been sitting on the sidelines unaware of the benefits of 5G and awaiting the "killer app" that is going to compel them to upgrade.

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Over the past 3 years, deployments of 5G network technology have advanced swiftly. Operators in more than 60 countries have activated 5G networks and are now providing access to consumers. Unfortunately, while launch activity has been robust, consumer adoption of 5G has lagged expectations. According to a recent study by YouGov.com, which surveyed more than 18,000 people from 17 nations, 5G has yet to catch on in a big way with mobile consumers, especially in the US and Europe. The study cites a lack of consumer awareness and a poor understanding of the benefits of 5G. Specifically, respondents "do not know if 5G will change how people connect to the internet," or whether the benefits are worth the additional costs. Many consumers are of the opinion that 4G/LTE connections are “good enough” and are therefore reluctant to upgrade.

To reap the full benefits of their investment, CSPs will need to sell the value of 5G to consumers to convince them to upgrade. Consumers' motivation to upgrade will be driven by the demonstrable benefits 5G connections have on the applications and services they already use. So what are some things CSPs can do now to win over 5G subscribers, keep them interested, and show them the value of faster mobile connectivity?

Connecting people with the content they love

Let's start by exploring what consumers are hoping 5G will do for them. According to research from IHS Markit, 81% of survey respondents under the age of 50 expect video streaming will be the top activity and a primary reason to upgrade to 5G. Such a high figure suggests that CSPs interested in attracting and retaining 5G subscribers should consider how they can deliver better video experiences to customers as a way of compelling them to upgrade. Video experiences can come in many forms, including CSP branded services pay TV services, and over-the-top (OTT) streaming applications that offer live and on-demand content, as well as personalised TV recordings. All of these experiences can be enhanced by implementing video technologies that are optimised for 5G networks. Mobile-optimised video technologies can be used in a variety of ways to improve consumer's perception of 5G, for example

  • Optimising Pay TV for mobile viewing
    CSPs can demonstrate the value of 5G by delivering premium-tier pay TV services wirelessly on both mobile and in-home viewing devices. With 5G data rates often exceeding the connection speeds available through wireline services, consumers can see benefits by accessing HD, 4K, or even 8K TV services on all of their connected devices, including smart TVs, phones, tablets, and PCs. To support ultra-high video resolutions, special mobile-optimised CDN software can be deployed deep at the edge of 5G radio access networks (RANs), either on dedicated servers or using virtualised caches running on multi-access edge compute (MEC) platforms. Mobile-optimised CDNs offer operators the ability to cache content closer to the subscriber, reducing session start-up times, cutting backhaul demands, and minimising downstream video traffic through the RAN. With 8K resolutions requiring 4 to 8 times the pixel count of full HD content, CDNs are the key to delivering high bit-rate video content efficiently. This enables 5G-based video services to deliver superior viewing quality on even the largest TV screens in the household.

  • Improving OTT stream quality (and making money doing it)
    According to mobile infrastructure provider Ericsson, video traffic already accounts for 66 percent of all mobile data traffic, and this figure is expected to rise to 77 percent by 2026. The majority of this traffic is driven by over-the-top streaming services like Disney+, Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu, as well as user-generated content services like YouTube. To highlight the advantages a 5G connection offers, CSPs must deliver these OTT services with superior quality and without rebuffering delays. However, minor packet loss or latency caused by inefficiencies in the transport layer can cause a noticeable degradation for subscribers who expect to get the best possible experience. Using TCP, web, and video optimisation technology, mobile-optimised CDNs can increase throughput by as much as 10-40%. In addition, open caching technologies enable CDNs to serve popular OTT content assets from the same caches used to deliver Pay TV services. When consumers initiate a new stream, CSPs can deliver OTT content from caches at the edge of the RAN, instead of pulling content through the RAN from the internet. This dramatically shortens start-up latency, improves stream resolution, and virtually eliminates rebuffering. As a side benefit, open caching also provides a new source of video revenue for operators. OTT streaming companies are increasingly interested in establishing direct relationships with operators to take advantage of their last-mile networks. These companies are willing to pay CSPs for last-mile stream delivery given it will actually save them costs elsewhere in the delivery chain. To top it off, by delivering more content from the edge of the network, open caching reduces both backhaul and downstream internet traffic over the 5G network, helping to preserve valuable bandwidth for other services.

  • Delivering mobile video ads that are more personal and valuable to ad buyers
    Consumer interest in ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) services is growing. Recent studies by Variety Intelligence Platform show that more than half of consumers prefer "free" ad-supported services versus pay services. In fact, Digital TV Research’s principal analyst, Simon Murray, projects US AVOD revenues will triple between 2020 and 2026 to $31bn. Using new server-side ad insertion (SSAI) technology, CSPs can take advantage of this trend by inserting personalised video advertisements into 5G video streams to improve consumer engagement levels and drive up ad prices. Using information such as consumer location, device type, and time, SSAI systems can accurately guide ad placement decisions and improve ad relevance. In the case of mobile consumers, targeting users by location is a rich source of new revenue growth opportunities. For example, ads for local brick-and-mortar businesses can be presented whenever the end-user is in close proximity to the store.  Location-based ads can be sold programmatically and can command higher prices given the increased value they offer to ad buyers. Beyond inserting ads in their own content, CSPs can also negotiate with broadcasters and content owners for the rights to insert targeted ads into third-party content. The growth opportunities for mobile ads are truly limitless and the technology is available today to supercharge the monetisation of mobile video services through personalised ads.

In summary: video is 5G's "killer app"

Investing in a mobile video strategy is a great way to showcase the benefits customers can expect to receive from an ultra-fast mobile broadband connection. Beyond the near-term growth opportunities in video streaming and advertising, mobile-optimised CDN technology also provides a great jumping-off point for introducing other services like AR/VR, cloud gaming, and connected car applications. For operators looking for a killer app to drive 5G adoption and keep customers engaged, look no further. Focusing on video to boost 5G subscriptions can help operators achieve their growth objectives and generate the consumer enthusiasm needed to fuel operators' visions of a 5G-powered future. 


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