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Skyfire puts mobile video on a bandwidth diet for carriers

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Skyfire made a turn earlier this year from being a mobile browser maker to being a B2B provider of video compression technology for carriers and handset manufacturers. The effort was a good first step, but now the shift jumps into high gear with the next iteration of Skyfire’s Rocket platform, which brings a host of improvements that should be appealing to operators worried about the explosion in mobile video usage.

Skyfire said with Rocket 2.0, it can deliver bandwidth savings of 75 percent on smartphone video, and an average of 60 percent across all devices. New carrier customers can take advantage of 2.0 upgrades that include LTE support, instant optimization for almost any video format and the ability to apply granular controls for video optimization based on cell tower congestion, device type, subscriber profile and service plan. The company said it can effectively add 25 percent capacity to any cell tower with its technology.

The first iteration of Rocket provided similar savings for videos that could be compressed, but it only covered about 30 to 40 percent of video streams, because it didn’t handle MP4 instant optimization. Now, with MP4 support, Rocket can optimize more than 90 percent of videos, which make up a large percentage of mobile data. Cisco (s csco) has said video will hit 53 percent of mobile data by the end of this year and will represent two-thirds of mobile data by 2015.

“Rocket 2.0 is the world’s most scalable video optimization solution for mobile operators struggling to deal with the explosion of mobile video and multimedia,” said Skyfire CEO Jeffrey Glueck. “The technology will deliver game-changing cost savings for beleaguered wireless operators, as well as better user experience on the network.”

By helping carriers compress those streams, Skyfire said it can help a tier one carrier save $100 million annually in deferred capital expenditure and operating costs, making the investment pay off within months. Skyfire said a U.S. tier one carrier is going to use Rocket 2.0, but it couldn’t say which operator. It could be Sprint(s s), which mentioned last week at its strategy update that it was going to start using video optimization along with Wi-Fi offload to help it achieve 20 percent reduction in data. Skyfire said it’s in trials with a number of other carriers in Europe and the U.S.

I imagine Skyfire will have more takers of its video optimization technology. Carriers are going to have to get more creative with how they manage their bandwidth, and compression makes more and more sense. Opera is using it for its mobile browsers, and Amazon (s amzn) is also introducing the idea with its Silk browser. Apps like Onavo are also trying to help tame exploding data usage.

If a carrier can ensure that all video over its network is optimized for each particular device and network conditions, it makes it easier to provide better service for all users. And it can help the operators defray the growing costs of upgrading their networks. This is a problem that isn’t going away, and it makes sense for Skyfire to gear up for this opportunity.

3 Responses to “Skyfire puts mobile video on a bandwidth diet for carriers”

  1. Shouldn’t optimizing the video feed for each platform and network be the job of the OTT video service? The video service has access to masters that can be properly compressed to support many different bitrates and topologies.

    I would hate to have compressed videos to a 512KB H264 stream to support a mobile platform and then have the carrier further compress it. The image quality will be severely degraded detracting from the overall enjoyment of the video by the viewer. All the blame on the poor video quality will fall on the video provider and not on the carrier where the blame, and customer service calls, should go.

    • Dilip Andrade

      The problem is that most OTT video services cannot, or at least do not, have a full picture of the end user’s situation. There are differences between someone connecting via wi-fi and via HSPA, even if they have the same device.

      The point of such a service isn’t to compress everything that the user sees, but instead to determine if the stream going to the user is appropriate for the user’s device, the user’s connection and the bandwidth available in the connection to the user.

      Will a compressed video be considered worse than a video that is only delivered in a choppy and fragmented fashion?

      • “Will a compressed video be considered worse than a video that is only delivered in a choppy and fragmented fashion?”

        No, I believe it will be the same. Both situations are not beneficial for the end user or the video provider.

        There are many ways an OTT provider can determine the current maximum bitrate the user can handle and deliver the appropriately compressed stream. Delivery topologies like HLS and even a simple bandwidth monitor could help in determining the optimum bitrate to deliver to the viewer.

        OTT provider should also have a robust player in their app that can both automatically and manually switch between all available bitrates so that viewer can optimize their viewing experience.

        By wresting control of the viewing experience away from the Viewer and Provider, the carrier negatively impacts the entire value proposition between the Viewer and Provider.

        Carriers should work with providers by creating an Encoding Guide. This way providers know which bitrates to encode and send when a user is requesting from their network. This puts control of the viewing experience back to where it belongs.