In the past month, there has been some buzz about efforts by Google and AT&T to provide better management of mobile data costs. Google Chrome added the capability to optimize web content accessed through the browser by compressing images and web pages while allowing users to track how much data they’re saving.
AT&T announced their Sponsored Data APIs enabling content owners and enterprises to provide sponsor-paid zero-rated data on 4G through specific agreements with the operator.
And, while not publicly announced, patent filings revealed that Apple is working on plans to optimize FaceTime calls over poor connections, in order to improve the user's overall experience.
These announcements raise a few questions that we’ll explore a bit:
Why are these companies doing this?
- For Google, the pitch is to reduce a user’s data consumption by up to 50% while also reducing latency in page loads. This improves the user experience with their browser with the promised benefit of better protection against malicious websites. It’s likely that these capabilities will serve as a base for additional features in the future. And, of course, since the activity is going through Google’s proxy, it provides them with access to valuable tracking data, which may be their real motivator. Users need to opt-in, though, for it take effect.
- For AT&T, the primary incentive is to gain a cost offset for high bandwidth OTT or enterprise applications, such as video promotions or downloads. For enterprises with BYOD policies, it may also help reduce their reimbursement costs for employee data usage.
- For Apple, as already stated, it is to improve connection quality over unpredictable mobile links, thus enhancing the overall customer experience with Apple devices. While 4G data rates support much higher quality video, connection dropping due to weak signals or congestion is still an issue.
Are these efforts a threat to web and video optimization vendors? At Vantrix, we don’t believe so, for these reasons:
- Google’s impact on total traffic is likely to be negligible. Chrome is not the default browser for most Android devices (yet), will never be the standard on iOS, and is less than 10% of total mobile traffic today. Users also need to opt in to use the feature — if they even know it exists. It also does not optimize video, which is the primary driver for optimization of mobile data traffic today. Operators cannot rely on Google to help them for traffic reduction.
- AT&T’s Sponsored Data does not reduce the amount of traffic; it just puts some money in their pockets to offset the network costs associated with the traffic. Since they still need to address congestion issues, optimization products will continue to be part of their toolkit. In fact, by incentivizing content owners to reduce bandwidth requirements before hitting the operator networks to lessen their subsidy costs, it potentially opens the door for new optimization customers.
- Apple’s patent takes the novel approach of reducing overall bandwidth requirements by augmenting the video stream with pre-recorded images and lower background resolutions over slower networks. Currently, mobile video optimization vendors are not processing video conferencing or video chat sessions as a supported media type, due to the large differences in video codec support and proprietary end-to-end systems required. Ah, but what a great potential opportunity in the future!
We expect to see more and more companies getting into the optimization business, including network equipment providers and content providers. Frankly, the data traffic growth issues for mobile operators cannot be solved by any one solution, and it will take an ecosystem of different efforts to address individual pieces of the puzzle. At Vantrix, our optimization solutions can be utilized by mobile operators, telecom equipment providers, and content providers. We are the technology leader in video optimization and our solutions span infrastructure, cloud-based and OEM implementations. Our vision is Vantrix Optimization - Here, There, and Everywhere.