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Summary:

Today, telco gear maker Dilithium Networks launched a software product for carriers, content publishers and content delivery networks that can handle all of the transcoding necessary to take content formatted for one screen and move it to another in real time. The Dilithium Content Adapter is […]

Today, telco gear maker Dilithium Networks launched a software product for carriers, content publishers and content delivery networks that can handle all of the transcoding necessary to take content formatted for one screen and move it to another in real time. The Dilithium Content Adapter is the first software product from the seven-year-old telecommunications gear maker. The company has focused on 3G video since its inception, and Dilithium says the product is already deployed with some operators and CDNs.

But Dilthium’s not alone in its focus on delivering faster video to mobile devices. In a few months, Limelight Networks will launch a mobile CDN product for its customers, and Dave Hatfield, an SVP of marketing sales at Limelight, says customers are testing such a product now. While it’s not a huge focus at Limelight right now, he says phones like the iPhone have changed the potential size of the market by making it easier for consumers to get mobile video — and that could spur market growth.

After the launch of of the iPhone, which opened the Internet to mobile users in ways that were previously cost prohibitive or downright impossible, mobile video may be inching closer to reality. I’m even inclined to shed my doubts about mobile video (although not mobile TV). As such, operators may have to worry about delivering everything from video ringtones to YouTube content on devices. And that could mean a new market for content delivery networks.

Delivering images and video over the Internet to a PC via a CDN is an established fact of doing business for content publishers, but adding mobile screens to the mix have a few gear and service providers seeing green. Such vendors are trying to capitalize on three opportunities in the mobile infrastructure to sell products.

First is some sort of transcoding service, through which content formatted for TVs or PCs is encoded and decoded in real time, or encoded in a variety of formats and stored for delivery to the appropriate device. The second is a sizing service that fits the content to the mobile screen on one of more than 5,000 different mobile devices out there. Finally, the third is any sort of tweak that can reduce the amount of space and time to deliver mobile video on a wireless network.

There are skeptics. Barrett Lyon, CTO of BitGravity, a P2P CDN, scoffs at the notion that any sort of specialized services need to be offered for delivering content to a mobile phone. He points out that CDNs are already delivering ringtones and other content to mobile devices. He may be right, which means Limelight may not find a huge market for its services.

However, I tend to believe that real-time transcoding and other ways of rendering content delivery across multiple devices seamlessly will propel sales of gear or software in the years ahead. Especially if mobile Interent devices take off like chip makers hope.

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By Stacey Higginbotham
  1. This is a great post. It is a very nice blog too. I add it to my favorites. Thank you

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  2. The CTO of bitgravity obviously has no idea what would be requred to deliver a good experience to the mobile audience. The reason why the mobile web has not really taken off is due to poor user exeriences. This is why the iphone is so successful as it provides a good experience similar to other platform. This is proof that mobile is gonna be huge. Users expect this type of media experience even on mobile. Simply put mobile is complex with little or no standards with huge costs for delivery. A CDN can bring allot to the market. Sounds like Limelight have it right and readying themselves for the wave.

    Who would agree that mobile will not going to become the most common platform for web based consumption? Mobile is already the most common method for accessing the web in many Asian countries. Also if you consider the fact that many poorer nations have no wired infrastructure then you know mobile will be the dominant web enabler. A CDN has the ability to help bring content to a world population that is only available through mobile. How about helping to changing the world? Scoff if you don’t understand mobile and smile do.

    Summary:
    Limelight – great to see some vision and they obviously have a good take on mobile.
    Bitgravity – need to put Technical back into the C(T)O. I bet you this CTO does not even know how to utilize his mobile to watch any video.

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  3. I see this is as part of an ongoing trend: Carriers partnering with software vendors to add features or services to their offerings. Comcast & Zimbra, Teliasonera & Soonr, Rogers & Spinvox.

    The old “smart pipe vs dumb pipe” debate is maturing into something more nuanced. Carriers are realizing their value is A) Maintaining a stable delivering mechanism for voice & other content, B) Assembling the right package of features and content, with the right pricing for their demographic, C) Managing a billing and tech support relationship. Given this, it makes sense to outsource the actual features/services/content to 3rd parties as much as possible.

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  4. I have to say the CTO from Bitgravity is wrong. This is already a huge market but the problem is price. Lots of specialists in mobile but no real scale for any solutions. Bitgravity may deliver some mobile content but where does it come from? Probably an expensive mobile solution provider.

    CDNs have traditionally solved this cost and scale issue. Obviously bitgravity are not going to able to do this with a CTO who does no understand where his mobile content is produced, transcodes or rendered.

    Huge market for Dillithium, Limelight and those who have some knowledge in this space.

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  5. I’ve worked for a CDN, a transcoder and a tier 1 wireless carrier. CDNs fundamentally deliver bits faster, cheaper, better. The mobile user experience issue is much bigger than just faster delivery. Sure CDNs can deploy nodes inside wireless carrier’s networks. This is no different from their current deployment strategies. BTW, content is still choked by gateways and OTA bandwidth.

    Transcoding is a whole other animal and has been a fictitous panacea for over a decade. Before considering pushing transcoding to the CDN edge, let’s see it actually work at a single origin host.

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  6. Interesting editorial and subsequent blog comments:

    The rub is – everyone is correct – transcoding – the ‘secret sauce’ of CDN is in fact rescource hungry for the uninitiated – manpower, software, hardware, servers etc.

    However there is medication available to ease the pain – one of which is a web based video transcoding service – soon to come out of the closet at Streaming Media East this month – VIXOLA – a fast and inexpensive service for transcoding from and to any format including H.264, Flash and 3GP.

    In their alpha testing the service has proven to be extremely easy and efficient with scaleable resources for any medium to large CDN player.

    Mohsen Nasiri COO is culled out of the fiber optic industry and presents an extremely attractive alterative to heavy internal investment for current or future CDN’s and Social networks – mohsen@voxola.com

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  7. VIXOLA – Okay lunchtime cocktails are never a good idea – try mohsen@vixola.com

    Doh!

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  8. Stacey Higginbotham Monday, May 12, 2008

    @Shai, it will be interesting to see as this nuanced model evolves, how much carriers will end up charging for their part in all of this. I worry that their current 30-percent-to-40-percent slice is pretty hard on the developing ecosystem.

    @henricks and johng, Barrett Lyon at BitGravity is no technical slouch. I submit his personal web site for your consideration: http://www.blyon.com/

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  9. There are lots of mobile CDN solutions out in the market, but to date none of them have gotten much traction inside the U.S. so far. Some have made limited progress with carries in Europe and the list of those selling to the CDNs and carriers continues to grow and includes:

    - Ortiva Wireless
    - Vantrix
    - ByteMobile
    - Volantis
    - Vidiator
    - Uvumobile
    - Transpera
    - ROK Mobile
    - Thin Multimedia
    - RubberDuck Media Lab
    - Mobixell

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  10. “none of them have gotten much traction inside the U.S. so far.”

    I’ll just speak on behalf of Volantis at this point, since I’m a Volantis employee. Volantis’ software is currently used by all four of the major US telcos and is used extensively in live production by three of them. I believe the AT&T and Sprint logos are on our website.

    Note that like several of the other vendors you mention we also sell to non-carrier customers, and we have a number of those in the US.

    “Some have made limited progress with carries [sic] in Europe”

    I’m not sure what limited means, but more than 35 carriers, worldwide (in Asia, Africa and Australasia as well as Europe and America), are using Volantis for either their rendering platform or their entire mobile portal, and in multiple territories where those carriers have international presence.

    For the rest of the list, I admit there are several I’ve never heard of, and several I’ve heard of but never encounter, but I think that Mobixell (a partner of ours), Vantrix, Ortiva (with whom we’ve also worked) and Vidiator have numerous customers worldwide.

    Happy to discuss this directly, should you so wish. I’m assuming from your blog and from the list that you’re most familiar with the streaming technology/rich media transcoding side, to which we’re adjacent rather than central (hence the partnerships mentioned above).

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