Shock, horror: Europe tops global mobile video ratings

via Flickr © stevepaustin (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via Flickr © stevepaustin (CC BY-ND 2.0)

  • You want to watch streaming video on your mobile device?
  • Europe is the place to do it
  • Speed not important above 15Mbit/s, latency and consistency is

European countries have come out  top on mobile video performance, taking nine of the top eleven country spots in OpenSignal’s latest performance report.

The report marks a change in OpenSignal’s approach - instead of measuring the ‘network’s’ raw abilities (download speeds, latency, jitter, etc) it has taken an important network application - in this case video - and measured and graded it as closely as possible to the ‘user experience’. So instead of data speed, delay and so on forming the basis of the ranking, a different, application-specific set of measurements are taken to determine the average quality of video experience. In this case OpenSignal's video experience metric is based on the ITU’s  approach, taking account of things like picture quality, video loading time and stall rate. Presumably other applications (search, Web browsing, gaming and so on, will be measured over time).

Results just in

This a welcome development

Network performance and ranking using the blunt instruments of average speed, delay, availability, and so on had simply run out of road as a way to differentiate network performances. The networks have - at least in the UK -  all lifted their measurable performance to the point where you could hardly get a SIM card between them.

So to now users were being presented with rankings where the best and worst performers were separated by just a few percentage points -  hardly a compelling basis on which to choose a service provider. Likewise, limited measurement wasn’t really helping service providers to decide how and how much to spend to improve their offerings.

In fact the network operators and their system vendors have long recognised the difference between network and service performance and had developed their own service monitoring and management systems to expose ‘real’ applications performance on their own networks.

But unless they all agreed to share their performance via some sort of confidential benchmarking scheme (a third party looks at the data and only reveals each participant’s ranking on key performance measurements to the participant, not its competitors) they were flying blind, as it were.

So what now?

If the easily measurable things (speed and latency) can’t dictate the quality of application performance, what can?  Well, the relationship between speed and video experience is complicated, says OpenSignal.

While the video experience and connection speed are linked, in countries where speeds are relatively slow, once a country passes the 15 Mbit/s threshold in average overall download speed, the raw power of connections has little bearing on streaming video quality. So speed only gets you so far.

South Korea, for instance, which has way the fastest network speeds (on average) of any country, “fell well short of the top mark in video quality... Kuwait's average download speed was a mere 14.7 Mbps, but it was nearly level with South Korea in video experience. Clearly a good video experience is dependent on more than a lightning-fast mobile connection,” says OpenSignal.

So what does?

“Latency, which measures the response time of a network, has a big impact on our video experience metric, as the longer a device waits to hear back from the video server, the longer it takes for the video to load and begin playing. Consistency of connection speed is also an important factor. A super-fast connection isn't necessary to stream video over mobile networks, but a video needs relatively consistent throughput to avoid stalling.”

For in-depth analysis and more metrics visit the report itself on the OpenSignal website

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