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Half of Middle Eastern Subscribers Would Switch Operators for Unlimited Video

Exclusive survey reveals discerning video habits, low tolerance for poor QoE – and dollars left on the table for operators


Independent research conducted in the Middle East by Openwave Mobility, a software innovator enabling operators to manage and monetize encrypted mobile data, has revealed that over 50% of subscribers would switch carriers to one offering an uncapped streaming video service. The research which reveals mobile video habits in the region also found that subscribers blamed mobile operators for poor streaming quality – not the content provider or the handset manufacturer. The exclusive study was conducted by Censuswide for Openwave Mobility in Jordon, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Lebanon among mobile data users.

Mobile data in the Middle East and Africa has been growing at a phenomenal rate with traffic increasing 117% last year. As networks carry increased traffic loads, subscribers can suffer from poor Quality of Experience (QoE). But, tolerance of buffering during video playback is extremely low - subscribers on average were willing to put up with just six seconds of buffering. After that, they abandon the video.

The survey shows that the vast majority of subscribers blame the mobile operator for poor video quality, rather than the handset manufacturer or content provider. Two out of three subscribers in the UAE and a staggering three out of four in Jordan put the responsibility on their mobile operator.

All this results in subscribers who are willing to churn. On average, over half of mobile subscribers in the Middle Eastern territories surveyed would “definitely switch” to an operator who offer uncapped streaming video.

“Quality of experience, and in particular video buffering is a modern-day scourge for mobile users”, said Indranil Chatterjee, SVP Product Management, Marketing & Sales. “Our studies on QoE in Europe and North America also found that buffering was the biggest annoyance for subscribers – more annoying than dropped calls. And when subscribers experience poor video QoE, they often churn. That’s something network providers can ill-afford. But our survey also found some good news for operators.”

Chatterjee continued: “Respondents disclosed that they are prepared to pay extra for unlimited streaming video on top of their monthly bills. Lebanese subscribers were happy to fork out just over US$ 9 per month, over US$5 in Jordon and just over US$4 in the UAE. Clearly, Middle Eastern subscribers are discerning and there’s money on the table for forward-looking operators. The technology exists to allow operators to launch not just innovative video plans but also to secure new revenue streams, while reducing network loads. In mobile video, there’s still everything to play for.”

The insights from the study are being shared by Openwave Mobility’s CEO John Giere during his speech to mobile operators at the Zain Technology Conference today (7 December). The session, entitled “Driving Subscriber Acquisition and OTT Monetization Using Optimization”, takes place in the Le Royal Hotel, Amman.