Recent figures from Strategy Analytics show that mobile advertising is on the rise, especially in-app ads. Encouraging, but they also report that mobile video ads remain in the slow lane. This is a shame, because mobile advertising has the in-built advantage of the context and personalisation so prized by advertisers.
There are several reasons for this slow take-off, particularly in public places:
- Video ads are immersive – they make demands on your time. Consumers will only accept them in exchange for something they find genuinely rewarding. This is usually free video content, which is problematic to deliver to mobiles for several reasons.
- The sign-on/playback of video on public WiFi and 3G macro networks is rarely a predictable experience, which puts-off advertisers. And it will be a long time before advertisers will feel that LTE can deliver consistency to a large proportion of the market.
- Video consumes a lot of data, which puts off mobile operators struggling for capacity.
- Consumers are wary of the costs of cellular data, especially heavy content like video.
But a new innovation in mobile technology could be about to change everything.
Why is mobile video advertising in the slow lane?
Photo by Philipp Kühne.
Part of a strategic collaboration spanning the last two years, Ubiquisys and Intel® Corporation recently unveiled the Smart Cell, a hybrid device combining a small cell hotspot with a powerful computing platform. These cells combine cellular and WiFi, they provide the comms processing power normally only found in core networks, and they provide a platform for serving rich content and running cloud apps. The most important factor is that these capabilities are delivered in close proximity to mobile users.
So, imagine one of these smart cells is installed in a downtown coffee shop, serving WiFi and 3G (with a socket inside for the plug-in LTE module).
Unlike a macro cell, this cell delivers its mobile signal over a short distance to a smaller number of people. The result is consistently high mobile data rates, providing dependable video performance. The video performance is generally even better than WiFi in these environments because the signal is less prone to interference.
But smart cells, like most small cells, are often connected to core networks using commodity DSL, which is heavily loaded and certainly not ready for an explosion of video data. That’s where the smart cell’s computing platform comes in. By storing the video ad content on the smart cell and serving it direct from the cell, there is no impact on the backhaul whatsoever. The result is a dependable, high quality video experience.
So what else is needed?
Well, firstly something needs to be given for free in exchange for consuming some video ads. This would normally be yet more video content, which can be happily stored and served directly from the smart cell alongside the ads. There also needs to be a way of overcoming data bill anxiety, which usually means offering an explicitly free or low cost connection. This requires highly complex policy management software that can coordinate between cellular and WiFi according to metrics such as relative congestion or user profile, and which can involve users directly in the decision and billing consequences. Such sophistication demands a heavyweight system that could normally only be run inside the core network, but which can easily be hosted by the smart cell, where backhaul consumption is virtually nil and where high-speed local decisions can be made.
Smart Cells are not just a future concept – prototypes running live apps were demonstrated at Mobile World Congress in February and operator trials are now commencing.
Going to CTIA in New Orleans next week? Come and see Monty Johnson, Ubiquisys GM Americas, reveal more about the potential of Smart Cells. He’ll be presenting at the Small Cell Forum stand (4861) at 2pm on Tuesday May 8th.
And we will of course post his presentation here after the event.