Carriers are investing in network infrastructure – both fixed-line and mobile - to support the seemingly unquenchable consumer thirst for video.
For many users, mobile or OTT (over the top) video is a novelty since their expectations are based on 3G or slower mobile connections and limited broadband bandwidth. However, a new generation of users, who have grown up with 3.5 or 4G wireless and high speed fixed-line broadband, have increased expectations of the video experience with apps such as Periscope and Facebook Live allowing anyone to be a broadcaster.
These new users of social apps such as Snapchat and Instagram expect to interact with and provide video as a day-to-day experience. The base experience for these customers today may be streaming video, but for the next generation it will be immersive.
Immersive video enables customers to control aspects of the viewing experience. From changing the camera angle, to zooming in on the action through to augmented content, immersive video offers consumers new ways to interact with video and offers operators many new ways to monetise content.
However, even before the identification of the next killer app many challenges exist when delivering real-time immersive video. Total system latency is the major challenge for live video delivery, as it enables the combination of real-time and augmented content.
The real metric of success for next generation video will be how carriers and providers can monetise new services. Augmented reality offers natural and immersive brand ad placement; for a user in an AR experience, company logos and offers can be displayed in ways not possible in traditional video.
AR viewing offers virtual seats at an event and unlimited tickets to the best seats in the house, paving the way for increased pay-per-view and event subscriptions. Sponsorships, in-app offers and logo placement within the VR footage for event sponsors is another way that AR can bring in revenue. According to a recent Nielsen survey, users are 28 times more likely to recall a brand mentioned in a VR video than in traditional advertising.
From a consumer perspective, what if those at an event could get real-time statistics just by pointing your phone? Or order refreshments to be delivered to your seat? Souvenirs from the game delivered to your home? Find the venue toilets easily and quickly? Face swap with players by pointing your phone at your friends?
The actual video experience now can be a way to increase brand value to a new generation. Operators can differentiate and monetise themselves by offering a better sports or entertainment experience to their subscribers.
Intel and Verizon recently held an innovation challenge to identify ways of delivering enhanced experiences on Verizon’s network via software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) running on Intel technology.
The winner in the low latency category of the challenge was a combined solution from Artesyn and Vantrix. The solution was designed for concurrent broadcast to an operator network or the cloud and the edge of the network (local users at a sports or entertainment venue). Using Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) technologies, the VR and AR content could be live streamed to the venue with minimal latency. So, for example, viewers outside the stadium watching on VR headsets but soaking up the atmosphere experience no delay between seeing the goal scored and hearing the crowd cheer.
Multi-access Edge Computing
Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) is a standard currently under development by European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), with participation from all major players in the networking industry participating, from telecom equipment manufacturers to network operators to hardware and software vendors.
The recent name change for ETSI’s MEC group from Mobile Edge Computing to Multi-Access Edge Computing signifies a change in the world of communications providers, from separate networks with separate requirements to unified networks with unified requirements. MEC, which was originally conceived to support and enable the requirements set for the new 5G networks, is now capable of solving future problems as well as fixing many problems already identified by service providers.
Having been around in more proprietary formats for a while, MEC is now being standardised to a broader community of developers to allow operators to more rapidly deploy new services and generate new revenue streams.
Show me the money
There can be no doubt that immersive experiences, making use of VR and AR technologies, are the next ‘killer app’. The question is, how will operators make money from the phenomenal growth of these new services? To borrow two well-known lines from Jerry Maguire, taking advantage of innovations in camera technology and delivery platforms may be the way to go from “show me the money” to “you had me at hello”.