America: Your mobile video quality is the worst of all G7 countries

The mobile video experience in the US has improved, but it's still worse than Canada's or Mexico's.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Americans rank 68th in the world for the video experience they're delivered, according to mobile network analytics company OpenSignal. The US sits in the 'fair' quality bracket and, in 68th place, it's right between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. 

OpenSignal's mobile video experience ranking is based on 94 billion measurements from 37.6 million devices taken between August 1 and October 30

To judge 'perceived video quality', the company assesses picture quality, video loading time, and stall rates to generate a score of between 0 and 100. 

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The US got a score of 53.8 points, up from 46.7 points a year ago, but that wasn't enough to put it in the 'good' video experience category, which is populated by Russia, Myanmar, South Africa, Bolivia, and Laos. 

OpenSignal attributes the relatively poor US mobile video experience to several factors, but notes that the US had the lowest score of any G7 nation, which also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK. 

"Americans had the lowest Video Experience score of any of the G7 economically leading countries as US carriers struggle with the combination of enormous mobile video consumption and insufficient new spectrum," OpenSignal states. 

"OpenSignal's results highlight the need for the release of more mid-band spectrum to help US carriers meet the mobile video needs of Americans."

The six other G7 nations all enjoy a 'very good' video experience with scores between 65.8 and 69.8. France moved from 'fair' to 'very good' over one year, but OpenSignal predicts it will be harder for the US to make such a quick leap in quality.  

The measure isn't about top download speeds either. South Korea is known for having the fastest download speeds on Earth, but it ranked 21st for video. 

OpenSignal puts this situation down to how mobile operators manage mobile video traffic compared with file downloads to avoid ruining speeds for other users. 

Countries with excellent mobile video include Norway, Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, and the Netherlands.       

OpenSignal predicts it will be difficult for US mobile carriers to improve the video experience, particularly because of how normal it is for consumers to watch mobile video. The company found that 39% of US consumers watch TV shows on their smartphones. The same proportion watch movies on smartphones. 

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Its researchers argue that to improve the US video experience carriers need access to affordable mid-band spectrum for 5G and notes that mmWave 5G spectrum currently deployed won't help because of its short range. 

While most agree mid-range spectrum is required for 5G, there's been disagreement over the right path to getting there. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai earlier this month announced that the agency will hold a public auction of mid-band spectrum to boost 5G deployments

The agency will auction a 280MHz block of the 500MHz spectrum that makes up the so-called 'C-band spectrum', which is between 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz, and is currently used by satellite providers to deliver TV programming for cable providers.  

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