Delivering High Quality Video Services Online

12 March 2009

Video content, such as TV programmes, films and short video clips, is readily available over the Internet and is increasingly popular. Such material is very bandwidth-hungry; one minute of medium-quality video equates to around 710 MB of data, which must be transmitted over a telecoms network to the consumer. If that network does not have sufficient capacity, the quality of the video being carried may be impaired. In fact, the delivery of video content often involves data traversing multiple networks, sometimes across different countries. If any of the individual network links are congested, this will impact the delivery of content to the end user. Although current networks are generally able to cope with the demand from today's video services, it is questionable as to whether problems may arise in the future as more and more video content is carried.

We commissioned a study to understand the impact that congestion could have on the ability to provide high-quality video services over the Internet in the UK, and what regulatory measures, if any, may be required to alleviate problems that may arise. The study concluded:

  • The timely migration to 21CN will be important in enabling significant take-up of online video services at prices that are reasonable for consumers;
  • Video traffic could be accommodated by increasing the total bandwidth available, and it is not essential to deploy advanced technologies to prioritise video traffic over other types of traffic in order to ensure a high QoS for video services;
  • If video services are to continue to grow without leading to significant increases in costs to service providers, there will have to be a significant reduction in the cost per Mbit/s of bitstream products. This should be achievable once BT Wholesale has fully migrated to 21CN;
  • Even with aggressive user demand predictions, the cost implications may not be excessive if future bitstream pricing benefits from the economies of scale that fibre-based backhaul products offer unbundlers today, and if there are technological advances that further reduce the cost per Mbit/s;
  • Finally, innovative business models might be limited by regulation: in the event that the ability to develop and deploy novel approaches was limited by new regulation, this might limit the potential for growth in online video services.

Ofcom's technical research programme enables us to keep up to date with technologies and trends, so that we can be in the best possible position to execute our regulatory duties. We do not conduct research in-house but make use of external resources, such as private commercial organisations, university departments and government funded research institutions. These reports present the findings of technical work conducted on Ofcom's behalf. The opinions and conclusions stated within these reports are those of the organisations who conducted the research and may not reflect the view of Ofcom or imply any future policy work in related areas. Ofcom is not responsible for the content or accuracy of these reports.

Full report

Analysys Mason report: Delivering High Quality Video Services Online (PDF, 914.9 KB)
Published 12 Mar 2009