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3 keys to delivering exceptional mobile video experiences

You may have recently read blogs published by my colleagues around customer experience—Sandra Lowenstein recently wrote about the importance of AI on creating a competitive edge for online customer experiences, and Steffen Paulus spoke to the added value brought through monetizing 5G and how you can prepare for this new era.

Customer experience is a broad field, but every facet is critical to ensuring your business success and long-term growth as we all move toward 5G. In this post I want to discuss video streaming as a valuable service requiring an extraordinary customer experience to fully monetize it, and how you can better manage and deliver this experience.

Gartner states that customer experience is the next battlefield for telecom market share, and with mobile video consumption rising 100% every year (Insivia), these should both be areas of heavy focus and investment, especially with Virtual Reality and even higher definitions driving this demand.

But when we think of exceptional user experiences for mobile videos, what comes to mind? Often, it’s harder to pinpoint what makes something extraordinary and easier to note the issues that come with streaming video on mobile networks. Mobile video was at the top of the “list of shame” for services that subscribers most avoided due to price, quality, or both, so even though video consumption continues growing, the experience is not necessarily a good one. Extraordinary experiences, in fact, can be as simple as the absence of issues perceived by the viewer.

So how can you ensure customers are getting exceptional experiences with the video you deliver? We believe the best results are related to insights and action.  More specifically, we believe you need to:

  1. Look deep: make sure you can see into encrypted video
  2. Look broad: view video quality through an end-to-end lens
  3. Act fast: use advanced analytics to predict and resolve issues

With Mckinsey citing that 70% of people switch operators due to service quality and it being the number one issue driving churn, focusing on delivering exceptional video really is a no-brainer. With the advent of 5G, the forms a video will take continue to multiply—think virtual reality, live streaming, augmented reality, holograms, etc.

There are many more challenges that I hear from CMOs and Heads of Consumer/Enterprise Services than those that I will discuss here, however if you can fix these three challenges, you’ll already be delivering superior video quality to your users and will be on the road to extraordinary customer experiences. 

Let’s dive into the challenges associated with video and how service providers can fix these common (but avoidable) pitfalls:

Challenge 1: Your solution is unable to analyze encrypted video

The majority of network video traffic is encrypted, so to understand where issues lie, you need a solution that is able to handle encrypted video traffic. Video streaming techniques such as adaptive bitrate streaming, video compression, and utilization of encrypted protocols make the analysis and optimization of the video quality of experience (QoE) even more challenging for operators; and when 5G unlocks the full potential of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality video, not having a solution that can manage encryption will compound these issues.

If your solution cannot view encrypted video, your data will also be partially hidden from you, making your analysis more of a guess. How will you make the right decisions with such a limited view?  It may appear that a user is getting plenty of bandwidth and their experience should be a good one, but if something is causing stuttering video in the stream like dropped packets, you will have no way to see it. Ensuring your solution can break through the encryption barrier is necessary to understand the experience of your customers and improve it to deliver exceptional video.

Challenge 2: You don’t have an end-to-end approach

Trying to troubleshoot problems in the network is never easy, but it is even more difficult with video. Common “quality-killers” for video are long play delays, freezes, inactivity periods, and poor resolution/definition or audio quality. It’s imperative to look at the entire delivery chain to get a real understanding of the problem. While it’s common that issues are pinpointed in certain areas and those are addressed separately, a holistic view of video delivery is the only way to ensure you’re fixing the root causes. Data should be pulled from live traffic, radio, and all the way to the content delivery network (CDN). All this data can then be correlated and analyzed for a full understanding of the situation. Siloed data might be why issues that were thought to have been fixed keep reappearing. For example, if end users are experiencing freezes while watching video, you may see there there’s an issue with probe trace response time, which you then address and believe the problem is solved. Looking at the big picture, you discover that the CDN is having intermittent underperformace issues that are continuing to freeze video, so your solution only solved one piece of the puzzle.

Only an end-to-end video delivery chain provides sustainable results to ensure experience. It can seem tedious—and maybe even inefficient at first, but to truly asses the quality of experience your videos deliver, you need to integrate the process of analyzing data from live traffic and correlate each video session with radio, transport, backhauling and CDN measurements. This is the only way you will extrapolate a full understanding of the cause of poor QoE. 

Challenge 3: You are not leveraging advanced analytics

The way telecoms operate and manage their network is changing; human intelligence is becoming augmented in order to achieve new levels of success and competitive advantage. Networks are now being run more effectively, delivering operational efficiency, speed in decision making, and improved network quality; machine learning and artificial intelligence are exponentially changing how networks are managed and what they can deliver.

With so much data now available, you can now implement predictive and cognitive capabilities into network monitoring and operations. This isn’t a new idea, but what still surprises me is how seldom or ineffectively advanced analytics and cognitive capabilities are used by telecoms to ensure the quality of a user’s video experience. I want to underscore that these capabilities should become a standard part of any video delivery strategy as traditional data approaches will soon be unsustainable due to the complexities that 5G will introduce. Being able to proactively manage the network through real-time insights will become even more important as you begin the transition from 4G to 5G.

In conclusion

Happy customers tend to show loyalty and loyalty is currency in the digital world. Loyalty can be monetized. With video driving some of the highest user growth rates over the next few years, it is the space that telecoms should be getting into now so that they have a competitive edge when 5G becomes the norm—which isn’t that far away.

The three common challenges I discussed in this post were selected because these are ones that you can solve today, but they will become even more relevant and critical in the 5G era. Content is still king, and even today video content rules the roost. Delivering extraordinary customer experiences with video should be a part of every telecom’s strategy for growth. Address these three challenges now and you might just get an edge on your competition: deploy a solution that can see into encrypted video, look at video quality end-to-end, and use a predictive mode of operation with advanced analytics.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #5G, #machinelearning

Balazs Pesz

About Balazs Pesz

Balázs is a portfolio marketing manager for Nokia’s Network Cognitive Services. He is excited about the power AI has to augment human intelligence, increase efficiency and improve decision-making helping to transform networks and businesses. Outside of business hours he takes care of his vineyard and produces some quality Riesling.

Tweet us at @nokianetworks

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