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Why YouTube responsible for 22% of all mobile bandwidth in 2011

A recent report (by Allott Communications, July 2011) revealed the intriguing statistic that in the first half of 2011, a full 22% of all mobile bandwidth was consumed people accessing YouTube videos. This information was gleaned from top mobile-phone network providers around the world. It’s known that both internet access by mobile phone users and the popularity of video have increased rapidly in recent years. However, the figures presented and their potential implications are serious for both internet service providers and mobile network operators. They could affect future internet usage and service offerings from both. All of the reasons for this pattern of usage are not yet fully clear, but there are a number of possible explanations.

Increase in Popularity of Video
Video is increasingly popular in comparison to text-based communication. Many people nowadays are getting much of their information from television rather than from books or newspapers. This may be part of a tendency dictated by increasingly busy lives and the volume of information available. Teaching in schools and universities has increasingly used videos for instructional material, producing students who find it natural to use this medium to acquire information. Also, a lot of music is now produced on DVD rather than just as a straightforward audio offering. Many people now expect visually rich content for much of their input.

The report found that streaming video was the largest consumer of mobile bandwidth and accounted for 39% of total mobile-bandwidth usage. YouTube alone accounted for 52% of all mobile-video streaming.

Increase in Mobile Internet Access
The report also showed that the bandwidth consumed by mobile devices for data access grew by 77% in total in the first half of 2011. Some of this is accounted for by Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and Internet Messaging (IM). These increased in usage by 101%, but still accounted for only 4% of the total used. The second-largest consumer of mobile bandwidth was file sharing, with 29% of the total.

The increase in availability of mobile devices that can access the internet has come with a rise in traffic. There is a significant number of internet users who only access it via their mobile device rather than through a computer.

Websites Optimised For Mobile
Many websites have adapted to the increased internet access from mobile device users by changing some or all of their web pages, optimising them for viewing from mobile devices. Normal web pages may not be properly viewable from a web-enabled mobile device and might need to be redesigned accordingly. The increase in the number of websites that can be accessed in this way has driven a rise in mobile-originated traffic. YouTube itself has a section of its website specifically for mobile devices and is one of the most heavily visited sites on the web.

Video Density
Videos are ‘dense’ compared with ordinary web traffic. A typical simple web page might be of the order of twenty kilobytes in size, or more if it has a significant number of images on it. A typical five-minute video could be around twenty megabytes, depending on the video’s format. If the video is in HD format, its size would be even greater. YouTube has a section describing how to make DVD quality videos and upload them.

Smart phones with Cameras
The report suggested that the availability of smart phones incorporating cameras has accelerated the trend. Once people shot videos on video cameras and shared them by showing them on their home TV or video player. They now increasingly shoot them on their smart phones, upload them to YouTube and then inform their friends of their presence.

Video consumption and mobile phone usage are both on an increasingly upward trend. The convergence and integration of the two has made a very significant impact on mobile bandwidth usage. Both mobile network operators and internet service providers are being and likely will continue to be, affected by this trend and need to adapt to it.

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