Facebook mobile video traffic overtaking YouTube in some countries

Openwave's new report detailed mobile data traffic volume by OTT and region. (Openwave)

According to a new report, Facebook has unseated Google’s YouTube as the video provider generating the majority of video traffic on operators’ networks—at least in some countries in the world.

In Openwave’s second annual Mobile Video Index, Facebook surpassed YouTube as the dominant mobile video streaming service in Africa, generating 36% of all mobile data traffic in the region, compared with YouTube’s roughly 25%. The firm said that trend could well play out in other countries around the world as well.

“Facebook has been investing and innovating in video creation and streaming technology for two years. Take for example Facebook Watch, the TV-like service launched in August 2017,” notes Openwave’s newest report, adding that Facebook has been working to develop video content longer than 3 minutes—an effort that directly impacts mobile network traffic generated by the service. “The focus on long-form [video content] mirrors our MVI data findings and our European survey finding of increased average playback times. … Ultimately, Facebook video may well overtake YouTube for the reasons stated above and because of their increased depth of user engagement. Putting it simply, Facebook has more data on its users and therefore a better understanding of what viewers want. Using this intelligently enables them to serve more relevant content and, of course, ads.”

For network operators, the findings are important considering video comprises the bulk of network traffic. According to Cisco, mobile video traffic accounted for 60% of total mobile data traffic in 2016, and the company predicted that figure will rise to 78% by 2021. Thus, ensuring the speedy delivery of that video is a key element of operators’ marketing message.

For U.S. operators the findings are particularly noteworthy considering AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have all closely tied their networks and their service plans to video. For example, AT&T is working to sell its DirecTV Now streaming video service to its mobile subscribers, and is zero-rating content from the service for its customers who subscribe to metered data plans. Meantime, T-Mobile offers Netflix subscriptions for free to its customers, while Sprint is leveraging a similar offering of free Hulu subscriptions.

Nonetheless, according to Openwave’s latest report, few of those services currently rank among the top vide traffic generators in North America. The firm found that YouTube generated 31% of the region’s mobile data traffic, followed by Facebook at around 20%.

Openwave’s statistics are derived from network traffic figures from around 30 participating operators worldwide. The company sells video and network software and technology products to telecom operators globally.

Openwave’s findings roughly dovetail with those from other monitoring providers, such as  Strategy Analytics’ AppOptix service.