Home 4G and the Future of Mobile Streaming Video

4G and the Future of Mobile Streaming Video

Mobile video is exploding. According to Cisco, mobile video will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 131% between 2009 to 2014 as people access more YouTube, Netflix and high-bandwidth material on their mobile devices.

But imagine what will happen to mobile streaming video as the next generation of high-speed wireless networks and devices become the norm.

This series on wireless standards is brought to you by Intel.

Next generation networks will certainly encourage the popularity of video, but it will probably also change the way we watch.

Most users in the U.S. have access to 3G speeds of just a few megabits per second at best, which means videos sputter and stall. Mobile users typically opt for lower-quality video to avoid this, according to research by


, which optimizes old wireless networks for speed among other services.

But wireless infrastructure is about to take a leap forward as two so-called 4G technologies – LTE (Long Term Evolutions) and WiMAX – roll out. Sprint and its partner Clearwire plan to cover 120 million customers with high speed, Internet-anywhere WiMAX access by 2010, a technology that with upgrades could rival LTE speeds.

Mobile Web use mirrors fixed Web use, said Joel Brand, VP of product management at Bytemobile. About 75% of 3G Web users are connecting with laptops and netbooks, he said, with the rest accessing on smartphones. A full third of video on these devices is delivered by YouTube, he said, another third is from adult content sites and the last third comes from a broad mix of sources.

Next generation networks will certainly encourage the popularity of video, but it will probably also change the way we watch. For short, expedient, low-definition videos, YouTube is king. But higher mobile Web speeds will encourage users to seek longer, high-definition videos from services like Netflix and Hulu.

Higher speeds also mean live-streaming services like Ustream, Justin.tv, Livestream and Qik become more a lot more usable. Faster speeds will encourage individual users to stream more video, made even easier because so many users accessing via laptops or with Apple devices that have front-facing cameras. Livestreaming sites will also see huge opportunities for broadcasting live events like concerts, sports games or newscasts to users who can’t watch at home in front of their TVs.

The next generation of wireless networks will surely see more users accessing video – but it’s likely that a lower percentage of it will be from YouTube. Do you stream video on your phone? How do you see yourself using video as mobile wireless speeds get faster?

Photo by Giorgio Montersino

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