PCC Mobile Broadband's Exclusive Interview with John Giere, CEO of Openwave Mobility on 'Driving New Revenue and Relationships for Operators and Brands'
PCCMB: With the market expecting video traffic to hit close to 70% in traffic share by end of 2018, we see a lot of effort among MNOs to beef up their video delivery capabilities. What could be some of the immediate implications of these initiatives on mobile broadband data packages and pricing?
John: Understandably, subscribers will be reluctant to foot the bill for extra video streaming, yet mobile operators have to address the rising costs associated with increased mobile video consumption. Some parts of the operator community still consider LTE as the network congestion savior. However, many operators have noticed that in areas where LTE is available, data consumption likewise increases, meaning that 4G is not able to provide decreased congestion and network running costs as it was initially anticipated.
Operators need to start thinking of more innovative ways of addressing increasing video consumption. Application-based pricing for video is one solution that some operators are considering. By separating video from other data services, operators can make the economics of video delivery make sense again. C-Spire in the United States is one operator that has done this very successfully while keeping their subscribers very happy – through cheaper packages with time-limited video or as a transparent, premium service.
PCCMB: With the kind of optimization solutions coming into market today, MNOs can expect to enhance their ability to offer video entertainment content, not only on mobile smart devices, but also across other data connected viewing devices, including fixed screens such as televisions. How will this multi-screen delivery capability influence the MNOs’ positioning within the content market, specifically in the video entertainment area?
John: Many operators have already made the move into multi-platform delivery and have been there for some time, with varying degrees of success. The transition from communications company to communications and media company is not a straightforward one. The media market has been competitive in most developed markets for a generation, so new players, even if they are established communications companies, are not guaranteed scale and dominance. To add to that complexity, app developers and OTT players, notably Netflix, have already carved part of this video content ecosystem out for themselves.
The video delivery landscape also varies from market to market, so operators who are transitioning to multi-screen content companies will need to address the competitive and licensing landscape of their geographical markets, first and foremost. For the foreseeable future, in the media market, the only constant will be change.
PCCMB: Given the increasing number of purpose-built hybrid end-user devices with multiple resolutions and screen sizes, coupled with different connectivity speeds, what are some of the key technical challenges in assuring that centralized content is served on the optimal bandwidth, while maintaining the quality of service?
John: Video delivery mechanisms such as HTTP Adaptive Streaming or Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) streaming allow for OTT players and content providers to factor in the client’s connectivity characteristics to the video delivery process. But they are not the perfect remedy to maximize the end-user QoE.
Far beyond improving the video playback experience, the algorithms that drive HTTP-AS/ABR delivery mechanisms are inherently greedy. The client player will always request the highest available quality (and hence video bitrate) that the connection allows to, irrespective of any other contextual condition.
Optimization solutions that monitor and track subscribers’ available bandwidth in real-time can mediate the ABR client-server communication and force the client player to request the most optimal video quality at every point in time. As a result, a smoother playback can be experienced by eluding the process whereby the client would have to react after a portion of the video which was not suitable for the actual device and network conditions.
Optimization solutions also help MNOs to control the delivery of video content using ABR mechanisms, leveraging contextual information to both maximize the end-user QoE and to control data consumption.
PCCMB: We have seen in the past years, MNOs offering newer and more innovative service packages, based on popular online content. What will mobile data product innovation look like in 2014? Are we ready to move to a level of flexibility that enables subscribers to pay only for a piece of content they consume, such as a movie or a video clip?
John: Yes, we are increasingly seeing subscribers wanting greater flexibility and a greater understanding of what they really get for their money. Tiered plans served a purpose, but they are confusing to subscribers who for the most part really don’t know understand what a MB or a GB is, or how much data they actually need for how they use their device. We are living in a new consumer economy and people want to buy what they want when they need it, rather than something they only partially use.
To many consumers, the idea of buying and downloading a whole album because they like one song already seems alien. In many countries you can hire cars by the hour, rather than the day. And software-as-a-service pricing means that small businesses can buy just the capabilities they need for a fraction of the cost that larger companies have for bigger systems.
When you see this happening as a global trend, operators would be wise to evolve into the kind of company that consumers and businesses love dealing with. That means complete transparency and usage of concepts that everyone understands, like time and quantities.
PCCMB: Based on phenomenal traffic growth on mobile data connections, enterprises are looking at mobile advertisements as one of the preferred enterprise marketing and branding avenues. What are some of the key trends in mobile advertising and how fast are MNOs responding to the opportunities in this area?
John: One area that we expect to see growth for mobile advertising is promoted content. This year at CES AT&T was the first operator to announce their sponsored data plans to reward customers for engaging with mobile content with free data. It is only a matter of time before other operators join them and offer alternative ways to monetize data.
John Giere has over 20 years of wireless industry management experience in sales, product management, marketing and business development. Prior to his role as President and CEO of Openwave Mobility, John served as GM of the mediation business unit for Openwave Systems. Before Openwave Systems, John served as CMO for Alcatel-Lucent and CMO for Lucent Technologies. Before joining Lucent in 2003, John worked for Ericsson in various strategic marketing and business development roles. John currently serves on the Board of Sonim Technologies. He holds an MBA from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgetown University.