Video over Mobile IP - Operators Shoot Themselves in the Foot
Senior VP of Technology, CTO and Co-Founder, NMS Communications
(This article originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Internet Telephony magazine.)
With the advent of 3G, it’s possible to do real time video on mobile devices. Looking at early adoption, it is clear two-way video telephony remains a niche application but there are myriad uses for one-way interactive mobile video sessions. The first biggie is see-what-I-see. “Gee Mom, I’m climbing Mt. Fuji. Look at the view!”
With ever improving camera technology, it’s only a few years before most people will be carrying high performance portable webcams with them at all times. What will they use them for? Early indications are coming in from Asia and the EU. Dating and other forms of social networking are hot. Mobile services like “See Me TV” and “Look at Me” let people share user-created video clips. And AlloCiné, France’s largest movie information and ticketing service, offers movie trailers via their interactive voice and video response (IVVR) portal. In fact there’s a wealth of services that are being offered via IVVR.
But there’s a catch. Most of the innovative applications deployed today are using either 3G-324M (video telephony over circuit-switched data) or MMS (multimedia messaging, a specialized combination of SS7 and IP technologies). Pure video over mobile IP is technically possible, but not widespread. There are two problems.
First is the operators’ walled-garden mentality. For a third party to offer a service over mobile IP, they need IP connectivity with the operator. That’s not always possible and, when it is, you usually have to jump through hoops to qualify. 3G-324M and MMS use PSTN phone numbers, so third party service providers just need to obtain phone service from one operator to reach any mobile subscriber.
Second is the technology itself. Mobile operators intend to implement video-over-IP on their new IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS), but full-blown IMS doesn’t exist yet so pre-IMS and partial IMS solutions are deployed. These are not necessarily interoperable. They don’t offer QoS, so interactivity suffers during busy periods. And there’s little uniformity in handset client performance. 3G-324M and MMS don’t suffer from these issues as they have been standardized. The 3G-324M handset client may be limited to QCIF resolution (176×144 pixels), but nearly every 3GSM (News - Alert) (News - Alert) handset (except in the U.S.) includes 3G-324M client software.
So the prospects for new mobile video services are very bright, over the next 2-5 years. But only because I expect competition (see my October 2007 column) to force mobile operators to open their mobile IP networks to third party application providers. IT