Future tech

Are you ready for the era of Big Video?

By 2020, 8K video will be the de facto standard for all video content, even if we’re only beginning to get into the 4k experience

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 4:13pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 10:52pm

All signs point to video ruling the Internet in years to come. While video has yet to supplant text as the main medium of communication, statistics show that video is big today, huge in fact.

Videos are viewed 8 billion times a day on Facebook, for an average of 100 million hours.

In addition to the increasing quantity of video, quality is rising. Televisions today tout the 4K experience they offer, but we expect that 8K video will be the de facto standard for all video content, and will enable live streaming virtual reality by 2020.

Add to this you have the much-hyped worlds of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and gaming phenomenon like Pokemon Go that will further fuel the exploding video and visual content sector.

Mobile is where this is all taking off. According to ZenithOptimedia’s Online Video Forecasts, just over half (52.7 per cent) of all video will be consumed on mobile devices in 2016.

This potent mix of visual content innovation and higher bandwidth has brought us to what we define as the Big Video era. This new era represents a golden opportunity for content creators, service providers, developers and marketers in all sectors. Big Video will herald a time of intense transformation for both business and technology, but the question is are we ready?

The recent outages of AR-enabled game Pokemon Go are just a glimpse into the future higher demands that the Big Video era of VR, AR and ultra HD content will create.

Big Video will drive up infrastructure requirements beyond the capacity of many data centres and networks today. Processing power, server capacity and network bandwidth will all have to multiply in order to serve the rich content and experiences that deign Big Video.

Beyond infrastructure, we will need upgraded devices, software platforms and richer content to maximise the opportunities that Big Video will create.

It will take industry innovation, partnerships and collaboration to build the ecosystems and networks robust enough to support all the possibilities of this new paradigm. New Big Video solutions are required to support increased functionality and capacity as the network evolves 4G networks to pre-5G and eventually 5G network, and Asian countries are poised to become the breakout Big Video players and trendsetters.

The Big Video advantage for Asian countries begins with speed. 4K video requires higher bandwidth, low latency, low packet loss rate, a reality providers are quickly evolving to meet. Ookla’s recent 2015 Net Index found that Asian countries exceed the global average mobile network speed.

Many individual Asian nations exceed the global average of 12.4 Mbps for mobile speed. China, which has the fifth-highest global mobile data speed, at 27.6 Mbps, has laid the groundwork for 2K mobile video viewing. Hong Kong (15 Mbps), Japan and South Korea were among other Asian markets that also beat the mobile global average.

Starting in 2020, mobile 4K and wireline connections of 1 gigabyte per second (1 Gbps) will be considered a basic demand. On fixed networks, achieving speed of 1 Gbps, up to 10 Gbps, to support Big Video 4K, 8K and VR/AR requirements, existing fibre and copper access must be upgraded. This begins with a transformation of the network design principle.

We’ve already glimpsed what might be possible in the future of Big Video as services will mature, and 8K, VR and AR services will be introduced.

By 2025, 8K, VR and AR will be fully mature, holographic video will be introduced.

After rudimentary incarnations in the 1980s and 1990s, technology and video quality has advanced enough that brief, immersive VR experiences are possible. One day soon, VR could be calibrated to a user’s body, measuring blood pressure or galvanic skin response, and set to alter a user’s experience accordingly.

For the VR industry to mature, its creators must refine and improve the experiences they create. At present, most VR experiences are limited to around 20 minutes, when “virtual reality sickness”, or nausea and vertigo, typically starts for viewers.

There’s a lesson to be learned here for the wider industry. Video experience, including content, operation and viewing experience, will be the core value of Big Video.

This will require a healthy, well managed and powerful content delivery networks to make video transmission efficient. Industry players that can adapt and deliver great experiences will benefit, as will their customers.

China may become the breakout Big Video player and trendsetter. Beginning this year, China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile have all devoted significant resources to developing video services. The popularity of 4K video over wired networks is such that China Telecom has adopted developing 4K as a main strategy of growth and customer retention.

As video becomes the dominant medium for communication and connection, businesses in all industries will have to rethink the way they engage businesses and consumers. They will also need to rethink their own business models in order to take advantage of the endless new opportunities that the Big Video era promises.

Zhao Xianming is board chairman and president of ZTE Corp