This year millions of smartphones, tablets and other devices have entered the market, LTE has arrived and streaming video has become incredibly popular. But what’s in store for mobile networks in 2013? In this article I’d like to share my views on what 2013 holds for mobile operators, delving into how user behaviour will evolve and how operators will need to adjust in order to best utilise LTE bandwidth – both in terms of monetising the opportunity and ensuring excellent QoE.

Video content will double

According to analytics, in late 2012, YouTube traffic generated from mobile devices accounted for 25% of total data usage on networks, and mobile views have risen from 6% to 25% over the past 18 months. I predicts that not only will video content double in volume in 2013, but also that its overall percentage of total mobile data traffic on networks will rise to 60%.

Vodafone Germany, one of the frontrunners of LTE deployments in Europe, already found that 75% of its traffic was from video. Clearly, video and its supporting technology – smartphones, LTE networks and video optimization – will experience an increased demand in 2013. Nobody wants to watch a video of any kind that stalls 30 to 50 seconds for every 60 seconds of content. With more sophisticated smartphones on efficient, high capacity LTE networks, mobile subscribers can expect a consistently good user experience, but enhanced traffic management will be required to make best use of the additional data.

Competition among video calling services will increase its usage

I expect that human behaviour will continue to push the limits of mobile video calling technology, as consumers look to dynamically engage with one another for both personal and commercial purposes – any time, any place. We will see a significant increase in mobile video communication such as Apple’s Facetime and cross platform Microsoft-owned Skype. In addition, we’ll surely see Google and Facebook make more of an effort to push video calling in 2013. This rise of so-called OTT services could be matched with operator-branded initiatives.

New opportunities for measurement and monetisation of mobile data

Mobile operators will begin to create more sophisticated data tariffs than “all you can eat” or “measured by the megabyte”. In order to align network impact with subscriber demand, mobile operators will have to adopt methods of measuring the data subscribers’ user experience and then sell that value to their subscribers.

For example, a family plan that limits video consumption to standard-definition (SD), even if everyone on the plan has a mobile device that supports high-definition (HD) resolution that rivals that of their big-screen family television set. Or perhaps offer a premium data plan that includes HD video for business users who have a need for clear mobile video communications as they travel between meetings.

Operators could even provide the option to ‘dial-down’ the impact of background data transactions such as auto app updates, in order to prioritize more visible usage such as streaming YouTube or Netflix video. Pay per view for high traffic demand events, or a PAYG model on video where users get a set number of credits for video, before needing to ‘recharge’ their video accounts could also emerge.