February 17, 2011

Smartphone Video Revolution Taking Place In 2011

Industry players and experts say that smartphones and tablets are driving a mobile revolution, allowing video to take the lead in a business once dominated by voice calls.

According to companies that monitor traffic, video already does or will soon account for the majority of mobile data traffic, and the new surge of tablet sales is likely to increase that.

"If you want to put 2011 into a nutshell you can say that for the mobile phone companies their business is changing from an ears business -- people speaking and hearing -- into an eyes business with people looking at little screens," Stefan Zehle, CEO of Coleago Consulting, told the AFP news agency.

Cisco chief John Chambers told the mobile industry's annual trade fair in Barcelona that the visual medium would soon become ubiquitous in mobile communication.

"It won't be fifty to sixty percent of traffic on networks in five years out that will be visual. It will be eighty to ninety percent. Everything you do will have visual capability."

According to network firm Allot Communications, currently most of the visual traffic is video streaming, with video-sharing site YouTube the single top application accounting for 17 percent of total mobile data traffic.

However, 2011 could be the year that video telephony finally takes off, about a half century after it was first invented.

Skype brought video calls to PCs in 2006 and says 42 percent of its calls are now video.

Skype launched video calling for the iPhone last month, which so far works with only WiFi connections.

ooVoo, another firm, supports iPhones and smartphone running Google's Android operating system for its free high-definition-capable video calling service.

The firm has gone from nine million users in January 2010 to 21 million last month.

"I really see 2010 as having been the tipping point for video calling," the company's chief executive, Philippe Schwartz, told AFP.

He said that video calling would remain a niche service if it just stayed on PCs, but "mobile is the enabler to make it mass market."

U.S.-based Syniverse Technologies announced earlier this week a deal to provide a video calling service for Korea Telecom.

The service is highly interoperable as it does not require receiving handsets to have pre-installed software.

Aylus announced a similar video calling service for operators that allows users to start conversations as audio calls and then freely switch over to video.

Both ooVoo and Aylus video calls can be made over existing 3G networks, and the video quality in demonstrations matched or exceeded PC video calls on fixed Internet conditions.

However, not everyone is convinced video telephony will take off.

"I think the value for the end user to actually watch each other while talking is limited," Magnus Rehle, managing director of Greenwich Consulting, told AFP.

The consulting firm Deloitte said in a recent report it "believes that in 2011 video calling will be cheaper, better and more widely available than ever; yet a boom in demand is unlikely."

It said for most calls that audio is sufficient for users, and many remain uncomfortable with video calling as it makes them self-conscious.

However, a Skype representative told AFP's Richard Lein that people do not want to be bounced to their PCs and that mobile video calls "give users the opportunity to share personal moments wherever they are and whenever they want."

He said smartphone handset makers would not be equipping them all with front-facing cameras if they thought video calling would remain a niche service.

Aylus chief executive Mark Edwards said at the Mobile World Congress that Skype's success with PC-based video calling showed "that if there is an easy and intuitive application to use to see the other party then there is a big number of people" willing to use it.

Syniverse's Tony Holcombe told AFP that consumers have been ready for mobile video calling for some time, "but the key to unlocking widespread uptake is full-scale interoperability" so all camera-equipped phones can be called.

Muvee expected to start shipping smartphones equipped with high definition cameras later on this year.

"Whenever you film you always get a bunch of rubbish that you want to trim and cut out," muvee founder and chief Terence Swee said at Mobile World Congress. "You don't want to go through the hassle of transferring video to a computer to edit, you want to do it on your phone directly and with muvee you can."


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