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Live IP Video Surge Driven by Sports and Mobile Quality

Live online video is booming worldwide, especially over mobile, but with big regional differences in drivers. The main factors in most cases are growing availability of OTT access to live sports and improved quality of service (QoS) over cellular networks. These factors are conspiring to boost consumption not just by volume but also duration of viewing, with 4G mobile services increasingly conducive to longer form content, whether on demand or live. Indeed, there is a fast growing move up to various formats of HD for online services even on mobile devices, according to recent data from USA-based video acquisitions firm LiveU.

LiveU found that data generated by live video over IP had doubled over the last two years, now totaling around 1.5 million live broadcasting hours across its customer base of 2000 spread around 100 countries. The average stream time per customer was now 2.7 hours per day, so greater than the broadcast total in many cases. The survey also found that HD video at 720p, 1080i or 1080p resolution accounted for almost 80% of all traffic delivered over 2017 so far, with an increase of over 120% in number of live HD sessions compared to 2016.

These headline figures mask regional differences, even if the general trend towards online live video is upwards everywhere. Sub-Saharan Africa stands out as registering the strongest growth in mobile viewing with a big swing from satellite to cellular, with very little cable or fixed live IPTV. This reflects a combination of several factors, the lack of fixed line broadband or cable networks, high cost relative to average incomes of satellite services and fast-growing penetration of high quality 4G networks. In many cases these are the only alternative to satellite for delivery of premium content and quality has been boosted by use of cellular bonding to combine multiple circuits in a single service. This is reflected by African consumers enjoying the longest video sessions along with Western Europe at 46 minutes each compared with a global average of 38 minutes, according to LiveU’s data.

This data might overstate the trend towards mobile viewing given that LiveU specializes in technology for distributing video over cellular networks, so that its customers are likely to be moving in that direction. But the overall trend is corroborated by other surveys. Cisco regularly conducts larger surveys under the banner of its Mobile Visual Networking Index Forecast, the latest of which predicts that internet video will generate 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2021. This will amount to 17,000 hours of video content every second, with live video accounting for 13% of that by then. Then earlier this year Cisco predicted that live video streaming on mobile devices would grow by 39 times over a similar period, driven by growing availability of live sports and aggressive investment by major social media players, notably Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter.

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