February 25th, 2010
(from our Atlanta desk)
I attended the Wireless Video SIG organized by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta on Feb 11, 2010 at Goizueta Business School, Emory University. The title was :
“Mobile Video : New Horizons, New Possibilities”
Here are the notes from the SIG :
David Barnette, Regional Vice President, Clearwire
Craig Kirkland, CNN Mobile
Dr. Nikhil Jayant, Executive Director, GCATT
Mark Nagel, Mobility Video Services, AT&T Mobility
Susan Schedel, Director, Business Development, FLO TV (Qualcomm)
Clay Garrett, Director of Visual Design, N4D
Moderated By : Dr Benn Konsynski, George S. Kraft of Business Administration, Goizueta Business School, Emory University
Overall – an excellent session on Mobile Video arranged by Mobile Video SIG Chair Caroline Dunn and Ashok Kumar.
Dr Konsynski started off with saying that there is a tidal wave of mobility and also of video. There exists a confluence of each. Moreoever, UGC (user-generated content) and other actors are confounding these influences. There is also a strong pursuit of standardization in this space.
David Barnette – Clearwire :
Clearwire leading 4G space in United States. Clear (Clearwire markets its 4G wireless service under the brand name “Clear”) is present in 27 cities covering 30 million people. Clear finds that usage for its service is increasing rapidly. Users are moving double the bandwidth compared to first generation network that they had. As they say : “If you build it, they will come”. David says that Mobile experience with Clearwire is not about dropped calls (dig at traditional wireless operators but rather can you take a video while driving and not dropping the signal. Clear is judged by video apps and not really voice. “does it pass the hulu test?”.
Davind mentioned that typical phone customers are on 3G but have no expectation for video for 3G. This is not the case when these consumers adopt 4G and WiMAX. Clear thinks that video will become standard expectation with consumers in due course and then the 3G networks just won’t suffice. Price structure is crucial for marketing mobile video. In future you buy bandwidth on Wireless and voice is just one of the many apps offered on the wireless channel.
Consumers – most devices and networks are designed for 3G svcs. But Clear is evangelizing with consumers and manufacturers that new age services and products need to be designed for 4G.
iPhone has opened lot of eyes. Clear is excited about the potential of Mobile web. Clear considers itself as an ISP and not as a wireless carrier (interesting !).
Dr Konsynski asked Clearwire about extraordinary innovations once the WiMAX network is in place. Clear executive said that it is normal everyday things which will have better capacity and pricing on 4G network. On business side, Clear gets requests (from enterprise customers) for high speed business apps in places where it is normally difficult to reach using the older networks.
Craig Kirkland - CNN Mobile :
Craig said that CNN (United States’ leading news network and TV channel) is bullish on mobile and in fact quite excited about it. Short and longer videos both will succeed, eventually, CNN feels. They say mobile video is in experiment stage right now. Their iPhone app is the most successful so far. It has video clips and streaming videos of major events (eg Haiti disaster reporting). CNN sees lot of challenges as well. Craig used to work at Alltel before (and so has a carrier perspective as well). CNN Mobile is excited about the device evolution. But CNN is concerned about mobile network quality. They are hoping the WiMAX LTE solves the network issue (indeed- a customer does not care whether it is LTE or WiMAX, Customer only cares about what experience they get). CNN Mobile also worries about discoverability challenge on app stores. CNN Mobile team focuses on discoverability a lot.
Craig said that CNN Mobile believes in net neutrality, even though a small set of users hog a a majority of the bandwidth.
Dr Konsynski says that Prodigy example (remember that now defunct high-flying ISP of the 90s) shows that if you throttle network for a small set of users, you can damage experience of your larger user base. So have to tread carefully in network throttling practices when managing high volume data users.
CNN has lot of internal resources dedicated to Mobile effort.
Dr Nikhil Jayant – GCATT :
Dr Jayant has an extraordinary background in academia and corporate. He said that he wanted to recognize the underlying core technology of Signal Compression. He said that signal compression was a great enabler to transfer CD-quality music and other things. Video is even more compressed signal. Video signals are compressed today by factor of 100 to 1.
Mobile TV factor compression today is sometimes 200 to 1 and 300 to 1. Dr Jayant expects 1000 to 1 video compression in his lifetime. He says network is fine but services on that is key. Video has the potential to become even more exciting in the next 5 to 10 years.
Mark Nagel - Mobility Video Services, AT&T Mobility :
Mark said that AT&T is focused on consumer and consumer experience. First mobile video app from AT&T stable was MobiTV in 2006. 3-4 frames per secs. You had to buy a $20 Data plan to get MobiTV. MobiTV was popular. Now they have a more advanced product from Qualcomm (called FLO TV) and it costs 9.99 per month. Nickelodeon is their most popular show on the mobile TV channel. He said that consumers still need to find the right app – consumer awareness about Mobile TV is the biggest issue right now.
Susan Schedel, FLO TV, Qualcomm :
The carrier partnership is most crucial for Qualcomm to popularize its innovative FLO TV service. They are trying to understand TV on the Go. MediaFLO (the network operated by Qualcomm for its FLO TV network) has high usage per day per user. FLO TV was started 5 yrs ago. They started with carrier partners like AT&T and Verizon. They have wholesale relationship with the consumer so far. Now, Qualcomm is also introducing direct-to-consumer channel called ”Personal TV” sold via Best Buy or Amazon (in my personal opinion, they face stiff competition from Apple iPad TV channels in near future). They have a dedicated device for Personal TV. Eg parent does not want to provide a phone to a kid but can give a Personal TV device. They are also working on backseat vehicle TV (personally, I think Qualcomm and Apple are on a competing path in 5 years – probably the reason why Apple did not choose SnapDragon processor from Qualcomm for their iPad device). They are also developing TV for the Android platform also.
FLO TV has DVR type capabilities as well as interactivity on roadmap for a user to stop, record and do catch up television.
Clay Garrett, N4D :
N4D is about 3D imaging. Focused on content. Volumetric rendering like catscans, weather etc.
Trying to solve headaches in watching 3D etc (think Avatar). As a content firm, they want to know about network viability and compression to allow them to deliver the content to consumers reliably.
Dr Konsynski – stretching the capabilities is important. Clay said that brain and eyes can cause issues eg in the recent blockbuster Avatar, 3D people said that content felt as if coming out of the screen can cause headaches and nausea. So, N4D is working on cutting-edge technology trying to make it easier to consume this 3D content.
CNN - iReport (user submitted video content on CNN) is popular with all audience ages even though CNN originally assumed that only youngsters would be interested.
Clear – Maximum adoption for Clear service in Atlanta area is in the midtown (think young, urban audience in townhouses and condominiums rather than suburban family crowd). It seems that the lifestyle pattern is more important to predict user adoption rather than age profile for such services.
Dr Jayant – Quality of Experience is key as Craig pointed out. eg Healthcare over broadband may be a big factor for success of broadband.
David (Clearwire) said that in few years Internet traffic and video traffic will become one and the same thing.
Audience question – Why will WiMAX succeed (when most major carriers are touting a LTE future) ?
David (Clearwire) – speed to market is important. WiMAX is available today with users. He said that Clearwire is aware of LTE but he says that they have spectrum positions. They say LTE and WiMAX are very close and feel that there may be dual mode devices and networks in the future. Eg combined LTE and WiMAX base stations and devices are alredy being built.
Audience – all said and done, what about mobile battery life?
Mark Nagel – FLO TV is broadcast-only technology and so battery experience is not really that bad.
CNN Mobile – battery issues bother them but the CNN exec agreed that consumers still want cool thin phones, regardless of battery issues.
International issues :-
CNN – have a large International operation. In general, they merged international and domestic products together. There are different subsets for both and there are pros and cons abroad compared to the US environment.
Dr Jayant :-
What consumers expect abroad in different parts of the world could be different from USA. Willingness to pay and Broadband policy may influence growth in other nations. Eg Finland declared recently that broadband is a birthright (::) (wow – won’t fly in the USA).
Mark Nagel (AT&T) - Rich experience in iPhone compared to before. Opening up new models and apps.
Dr Konsynski – why did qualcomm go direct to consumer ?
Mark Nagel (AT&T) downplayed that question. He said that AT&T is not competing with Qualcomm for Mobile TV. Bigger issue is consumer awareness.
Clay (N4D) – 3D has bad rep. But Avatar kind of experience may help popularize it and make it more consumer-friendly. Consumer education about 3D needs to be increased.
Net Neutrality :- (tough one)
Clear – flexibility is key and it is imp that people can push and pull content freely.
Mark Nagel – AT&T is open (ok!). Network is precious and have to manage the network using innovative techniques.
Dr Konsynski provided a killer line : If Content is King, then Context is Emporer.
Dicoverability, search, context :-
CNN – discoverability is about people making aware of their mobile app and moving across CNN properties.
Mark – trialing of apps is useful for discoverability but too many apps make it difficult to innovate in this area. Too many apps is a good problem to have ultimately. Somehow discoverability issues need to be solved via some innovation.
A fabulous panel discussion on Mobile Video set up by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta. Thanks to Caroline Dunn and Ashok Kumar of WTF.
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