According to software developer Openwave Mobility, encrypted data now makes up 60 percent of mobile network traffic and, if trends continue, will make up 80 percent of that traffic in some regions within the next year. The company said this is posing a real problem for network optimization, as carriers are unable to pinpoint users' needs thanks to encryption.
The problem "is now one of the biggest areas of concern for mobile network operators as sites such as Google, Facebook and Wikipedia use HTTPS encrypted protocols," Openwave said in a press release.
The company attributed the trend to rising concerns over digital information security in recent years, saying that this boom has put a strain on carriers.
"The dangers with encrypted traffic are very real," said John Giere, CEO of Openwave Mobility. "Only a couple of years ago, it was mainly emails and financial data that were encrypted. Thanks to what some people call the 'Edward Snowden effect,' content providers are adopting ever-deeper encryption. Even YouTube videos are now delivered over HTTPS protocols. So, the higher the number of videos being consumed by subscribers, the bigger the headache."
Because of the massive amount of encrypted information being sent, Giere encouraged carriers to look into optimization solutions that work in the TCP/IP and application layers.
"There are solutions that can identify bandwidth-hungry objects, even when encrypted, and achieve 50 percent data savings on HD video, audio and apps," Giere said. "Best of all, they do not compromise subscriber privacy."
The lack of optimization could have serious consequences, as an Openwave-commissioned independent study found video buffering to be a huge source of customer dissatisfaction. The study, conducted by Censuswide in both the U.S. and U.K. of more than 2,000 iPhone users, showed that 59 percent of subscribers will abandon a mobile video that doesn't load within 15 seconds, while 19 percent will wait only five seconds for a video to buffer.
While pushing optimization software is in Openwave's best interest, analysts have agreed that carriers need to look for streamlining solutions.
"Mobile operators should take Openwave Mobility's findings seriously," said Joe Hoffman, vice president of strategic technology at ABI Research. "Our research shows that 70 percent of operators worldwide do not have a coherent web and video optimization strategy. If just one-third of operators implemented solutions such as Openwave Mobility's, then the combined effect over the next five years from churn and capex reduction with ARPU elevation would move the needle US$ 30 billion into the black."
Across millennial and Baby Boomer generations, 39 percent of subscribers expressed an interest in paying extra for guaranteed high-quality video delivery, a figure which Openwave's Giere said means "operators are leaving money on the table" when it comes to streamlining network delivery.
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