Fast mobile speeds don’t always produce a better video experience

Faster doesn’t always mean better when it comes to mobile video. Today, OpenSignal published the industry’s first State of Mobile Video report, which examines the overall video experience on mobile networks in 69 countries across the world. The most startling conclusion of our global analysis is that in countries with highly developed LTE services, download speed has limited impact on the quality of video consumers see when watching clips or programming streamed from the internet. If you already have a decent network connection, then an additional boost in speed isn’t necessarily going to make your video experience better.

Image courtesy of David Stewart of homegets.com

Image courtesy of David Stewart of homegets.com

This new report represents a key step forward in OpenSignal’s approach to measuring the consumer mobile experience. In addition to quantifying the underlying characteristics of the network such as speed and latency, we’re analyzing how those dimensions impact the services and applications people use on an everyday basis. Our new video experience analysis seeks to answer a simple yet highly relevant question for modern mobile consumers: How good or bad does video render on my mobile connection?

We calculate overall video experience on a scale of 0-100 based on tests from real phones on multiple content providers. The metric is derived from an International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-based approach that takes into account video load time, stalling rates during video playback and picture quality. We then group these scores into categories: 75-100 is Excellent, 65-75 is Very Good, 55-65 is Good, 40-55 is Fair and 0-40 is Poor. (For more details on our video experience metric, see this blog post.)

Our analysis found that there was a definite correlation between speed and video experience in countries where overall download speeds were slow. Nearly every country with a video experience rating of Fair or lower averaged overall download speeds of less than 14 Mbps. But as mobile broadband speeds improved among the countries, the relationship between speed and video experience became far more dicey. For instance, South Korea had by far the fastest overall speeds of any country in our analysis with an average connection of 45.6 Mbps. Yet, South Korea didn’t even rank among the list of 11 elite countries with a video rating of Very Good. In fact, South Korea’s video experience score of 62.8 was nearly level with that of Kuwait, a country where average overall download speeds were a mere 14.7 Mbps.

Clearly, network speed is not the sole factor determining video experience, particularly in countries where 4G services are firmly established. Rather, many other factors go into determining the quality of video one receives, from network latency to resiliency of connections to the individual policies operators adopt.

You can read the full report here to see how all 69 countries stacked up in our video analysis. Let us know what you think of the report and our new approach to measuring mobile experience in the comments section below.

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