Video Download Speed a Poor Indicator of Mobile Video Experience

When mobile carriers promote the video quality of their networks, they typically use video download speeds to show how strong their performance is, but network measurement and analysis company Opensignal says video download speeds and streaming video quality are rarely related.

Looking at the four major phone carriers, Opensignal tested their video performance in 59 U.S. metropolitan areas. In all but one city (San Antonio, Texas) measures of download speed and video experience produced different results.

So why doesn’t a fast download speed equal a strong viewer experience? Because there’s more to a good experience than just speed.

“While download speed contributes to video experience, it is just one of the factors at play when smartphone users stream video on their phones,” explains Francesco Rizzato, senior technical analyst at Opensignal. “Latency plays an important role in ensuring quick load times, and a consistent throughput can help avoid buffering during video streaming. Peering links with content providers, intelligent caching systems, and other network optimization practices—for example, restricting video resolution or throttling a specific content delivery network (CDN) such as YouTube—can also have an impact on smartphone users’ video experience, which cannot be revealed through a simple speed measure.”

As a result of its findings, Opensignal is calling on the mobile industry to adopt direct tests of video streaming, ones that look as more than just speed.

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