Mobile Video Taking Up Bandwidth

Do you watch video on your smartphone? The odds are good that you don’t. A study released by Bytemobile shows that only about 10% of users were responsible for 90% of the total mobile network traffic in 2010. And of this total traffic, 40% is video. The company forecasts that video will grow to be 60% of mobile traffic this year, as people start watching longer video — TV episodes instead of YouTube clips — and at higher resolutions.

But the big question posed by these numbers is what happens when mobile video viewing expands beyond this 10% of users? Some services already have caps on monthly usage for their wireless data services, and presumably more subscribers will start bumping up against these limits as mobile video gains in popularity. We already know that there isn’t sufficient cell phone capacity for all subscribers to make calls at the same time. Will mobile video tie up so much bandwidth that it starts to create noticeable problems for users? Can the service providers expand coverage and capacity fast enough to meet the growing demand?

I suspect that as people get used to watching video from the Internet on their home televisions, they will be more likely to explore ways to access that content on other devices, including cell phones and tablet devices with wireless data service. And I expect that we’ll encounter some growing pains over the next few years as the demand for mobile video grows.