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The Future of Streaming Video on Mobile Devices

streaming video on mobile devicesMobile network providers have confirmed what many people have assumed to be true: video accounts for the majority of the mobile traffic. Verizon reports over 50% of traffic is video. Vodafone Deutschland reported over 85% of its traffic is video. And despite deploying 4G LTE networks as quickly as they are able, the increase in bandwidth usage is occurring at an even faster rate.

Is there any technology on the horizon to help relieve the congestion? In this post we’ll take a look at two possibilities that could improve the speed and quality of video downloads.

Cross-layer Optimisation

The first is cross-layer optimisation. This is a fancy way of saying that different parts, or “layers”, of the network traffic will be able to communicate with each other. Basically the layer with the video data will be able to get information from the network layer and the mobile device itself. With all that information it will be able to optimise the video data stream to suit current network conditions and the device. The effect will be to reduce bandwidth during times of high network usage. The technology can also be used to automatically switch between available networks to manage the load.

You can read more about cross-layer optimisation and a research firm developing the technology in this article.


Another new technology called streamloading currently has a patent pending in the US. This approach breaks up the video stream into two layers. One layer contains the “coarse” information of the video. The second layer contains the “enhancement” layer that fills in the gaps of the first layer and adds fine detail. Streamloading is the process of downloading the enhancement layer ahead of time, perhaps over a wireless network. Then later, when someone wants to watch the video they only have to stream the smaller “coarse” information over a cellular network. The reduced bandwidth used means less congestion on the network overall. This also saves users money as their own data usage will be much less.

Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University developed streamloading. Knowing the legal issues involved with streaming, they’ve also ensured that media providers can protect their content using digital rights management. If you want more detail, you can find it in this article.

These are just two possible technologies paving the way for easier video streaming on mobile devices. As the networks become more overloaded, there will undoubtedly be numerous solutions evaluated and tested. It’ll be interesting in the coming years to see which ones get implemented.

Oliver Burt

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