Demystifying mobile video experience

When Opensignal pioneered its Video Experience metric four years ago, mobile had already taken over the online video scene. In the past few years, that popularity hasn’t faltered. According to Ericsson’s Mobility report, videos make up a whopping 69% of global mobile data traffic. This is not a surprise, they are extremely popular and very data intensive. Which means app developers and network providers are constantly looking at ways to ensure their subscribers can get their daily dose of video streaming with minimal frustration. 

Keeping up with the mobile video tidal wave

A wide range of applications benefited from the launch of 5G networks and mobile video is no exception. With greater bandwidth, higher speeds and lower latency viewers can now watch superior quality videos on the go with fewer glitches. Meanwhile, high-growth economies across Africa, Asia and Latin America are witnessing the explosion of a subscriber base that are predominantly mobile-first. 

More people watching more videos for longer periods of time translates to even greater strain on mobile networks across the globe. 

What makes for a good ... and bad video experience

There are an array of reasons why users could have a bad viewing experience: the video takes ages to load, pauses every other minute to buffer, or the resolution may be downgraded along the way. On the first instance, network speeds may seem like the obvious culprit…but there are many more factors that determine users’ video experience. If we want to understand what’s really happening on our networks as we watch videos, we need to take into account a host of video specific technical parameters as well. 

  • Picture quality refers to the various categories of picture formats measured in pixels. While the measure looks at horizontal and vertical pixels, it is common to refer to the vertical pixels as short. Standard definition (SD) is typically quoted at 480p (480 vertical pixels or less), while more sophisticated levels could reach 720p for HD and 1080p for full high definition (FHD). UHD and 4K typically translate to resolutions above 1080p. 

  • Video loading time is fairly self-explanatory, measuring the time it will take for a video to begin once the play button is pressed.

  • Buffering is perhaps the most widely known user frustration related to video streaming. In the simplest terms it refers to the amount of time spent when the video streaming stopped to load the next video segment. 

  • Playback refers to the amount of time when the video is not loading or buffering and simply playing as it should. 

  • Stalling occurrence measures an interruption in playback after a video begins streaming, referring to any instance when the picture isn’t moving.

It’s evident that if we want to accurately measure and understand users’ true video experience we need to look at video streams in their entirety: from content providers all the way to the end-user device. By measuring real-world video streams directly from the world’s largest video content providers at a mixture of resolutions, our metric provides an accurate view of what everyday people actually experience when streaming videos on their data connection. 

As a mobile analytics powerhouse, we are committed to advancing connectivity for all and, in particular, app performance on wireless networks. By providing insight into the video experience of hundreds of providers worldwide, users can make better-informed choices when selecting their carriers. This in turn allows operators, regulators, NGOs and analysts to understand what’s really happening on mobile networks from the source that matters most: actual users.  

Interested in playing your part in improving video experience and global connectivity for all?  This is your opportunity to drive your app business forward as well as help improve connectivity and in-app media experience.  Join a network of hundreds of developers who are helping us do just that via our app partner program.