Video isn't going mobile; it's gone mobile. The issue is satisfying growing demand, not just in terms of bandwidth, but also in terms of functionality. It turns out people are not only consuming video, but armed with a new generation of easy-to-use capture devices (digital cameras, video cameras, smartphones, etc.), there is tremendous and rapidly growing desire to share video.
On the consumption side, video is becoming the bulk of the mobile business. On the peer-to-peer (P2P) side, it looks like people want it; they just can't get it.
Service providers aren't really ready for an explosion in P2P video involving mobile devices.
A couple of weeks ago, Cisco released another version of its occasional Visual Networking Index (VNI) reports, this one focusing on mobile networking. It showed that video represents just less than half (49.8 percent) of all mobile data traffic, and it's growing.
The Cisco VNI also showed that in terms of numbers of devices out there, smartphones and tablets are still a sliver of the total. Nonetheless, they represent huge and growing percentage of mobile video consumption, according to Cisco's stats. They're also the fastest, biggest-selling items in the consumer market, and that trend line is going only one way: up.
Another survey just released by Syniverse Technologies indicates that desire for P2P exists. Three-quarters (76 percent) of survey respondents said they'd never shared P2P video of any type.
But well over half of respondents (57 percent) were very interested or somewhat interested in a video-calling application that permits connection to and from a variety of devices, not just the PC-to-PC capabilities predominately available today, Syniverse's survey showed.
The response was that if the industry made it easy to share video, people would be inclined to do so.
The trigger might be the proliferation of smartphones. Thirteen percent of those surveyed who owned a new smartphone with a front-facing camera had used it for some form of P2P video within the first three months.
Different companies are all figuring out ways to enable more P2P video. Apple has Face Time; Skype is said to be developing mobile apps. Today, STMicroelectronics and ST-Ericsson announced a new interface standard that would enable a mobile device that is capable of capturing HD video to transmit that video directly to HDTVs and other HD monitors. They named the interface standard Mobility DisplayPort.
The question is whether consumer desire to do something translates into a real likelihood that they'll actually do it if given the opportunity. The potential problem for service providers is that any time there's a demand that isn't being met, somebody else jumps in to satisfy it – if it's big enough a demand. The last few years, the industry has been consistently wrong guessing that a new trend would not explode.
The odd tidbit
An interesting piece of information from Cisco's last VNI report: "There are 48 million people in the world who have mobile phones, even though they do not have electricity at home. The mobile network has extended beyond the boundaries of the power grid."
The mobile network will break the electricity barrier in more than four major regions by 2015. By 2015, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East, as well as 40 countries (including India, Indonesia and Nigeria), will have more people with mobile network access than with access to electricity at home. The off-grid, on-net population will reach 138 million by 2015.
Those interested in providing backhaul might want to take note of this: By 2015, more than 800 million terabytes of mobile data traffic will be offloaded to the fixed network by means of dual-mode devices and femtocells. Without dual-mode and femtocell offload of smartphone and tablet traffic, total mobile data traffic would reach 7.1 exabytes per month in 2015, growing at a CAGR of 95 percent, according to Cisco.
There will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users by 2015. The mobile-only Internet population will grow 56-fold from 14 million at the end of 2010 to 788 million by the end of 2015.