Based on current rates of growth, transcoding company RipCode estimates that by 2013, two-thirds of all mobile traffic will be video. That long mobile video tail — from video clips and video podcasts to TV shows, movies and games — dictates a very different delivery infrastructure than was needed when phones were only meant for talking.
"Of about a thousand cell phone models in the world, about 300 are video capable," says RipCode marketing VP Neal Hartsell. "The iPhone, BlackBerry and Android, those devices are consuming the vast majority of video bandwidth. From a video perspective, smartphones with larger screens are taking over."
The iPhone was the tipping point for mobile video, according to Hartsell, because it demonstrated that professional video content "is very viable" on mobile handhelds.
"If mobile video was just about YouTube, it'd be over. [Now] you'll see more and more high-quality content being delivered. Major service providers want to extend the content they have bought rights for to subscribers on mobile devices. You can see where your cable bill will let you DVR content into the cloud and watch it on a netbook in a hotel room halfway around the world. Some say, isn't that what Hulu does? Well no, because you can't watch every episode of ‘Lost’ on Hulu."
Not far behind is a new generation of mobile Internet devices — laptops, netbooks, personal media players, etc. "These devices typically have larger screens and better playback experience," Hartsell says. "The obvious trend is that we're going to see more of those devices for long-form content — movies, sports events."
Bigger screens, of course, mean HD mobile TV. "At Mobile World Conference 2009, there were a couple of devices that supported 720dpi video," Hartsell says. "There would have been more if it weren't for the worldwide economy. Manufacturers are holding back. I think you'll see a very different situation in Barcelona next year."
All this adds up to a lot of video traffic on a 3G infrastructure that was never designed for it. In this new environment, Hartsell says, "The pre-transcoding — push to a cache, store in multiple formats — model doesn't scale very well." Instead, Hartsell says, the new model for video delivery is more like a router, for on-the-fly transcoding. RipCode calls it “transactional transcoding.” Just as money doesn't leave your bank account until you buy that iPhone with your debit card, that episode of “Intervention” doesn't get formatted for you until you choose to watch it.RipCode's job, says Hartsell, is to make moving content from one digital format to another, "regardless of the nature of the content — real-time stream or file-based, from the broadcast domain to either the Web domain or mobile domain — fast, high quality, price-attractive and able to be monetized."
RipCode makes video transcoding just-in-time
Real-time transcoding automates multiscreen delivery, cutting processing time and operating costs....