Where should telcos sit in the age of ubiquitous video?

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Image credit: Inara Prusakova / Shutterstock.com

Video is running out of control. You could say ‘growing exponentially’ but that would be like saying a firehose is quite a strong stream of water.

Video traffic is already the most popular form of online content – OTT video is set to reach 400 million subscribers this year and looks to be on track for $51.4 billion in revenues by 2022, according to ABI Research.

To a large extent, the video traffic is being driven by social media, as they turn to moving pictures as a way to better engage their audience and drive their revenues. Instagram is the latest to announce that hour-long videos are now allowed on the site. This follows other similar announcements, all of which are designed to challenge the dominance of YouTube.

The traffic is also driven by kids.

Video is now the way to communicate and YouTube – for the moment – is the platform. Facebook is for old people (and, hey, there is nothing wrong with that), Instagram seems to be becoming quite business orientated and SnapChat seems to be playing catch up almost constantly.

There is, of course, the philosophical question about video. If everything is shown to you, how can you form your own opinions about things? Good old-fashioned books are more interactive and personal than any video will ever be. You can pick them up, put them down, they don’t need to be restarted (unless you put them down for too long) and every character, scene and relationship is how you see it, not how anyone else sees it.

There is also the business question.

The business question is now very ‘chicken and egg’. Do telecoms operators need the video platforms or do the video platforms need operators? On the one hand, the challenge from the fast-growing traffic is huge; on the other, the day of simply ‘selling data’ must surely be over.

Then there is the debate about whether 5G will replace Wi-Fi, or vice versa, and it all seems a little too complicated. Presumably every applicable technology that is capable to carrying video and makes some sort of financial sense will be brought to bear.

The final, and most important, question is what is the most effective relationship between operator, video platform and the customer?

Which is, of course, the ‘eternal’ question of the telecoms world and has been rumbling on for a decade or two.

It does seem, though, with this much traffic growing this fast, that the wholesale model makes more and more sense. On one hand operators should do what they do best – manage traffic.

On the other, if operators want to take on the care of the customer too, that is their decision – and one that with the recent scandals around privacy and security makes much sense.

Privacy, security and trust might be boring when compared to funny videos, but the boring bit makes a lot of sense right now.

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