The latest trend in video is called "placeshifting" - the ability to watch video content anywhere from any device including cell phones and PDAs - and it's a driving factor in the market for wireless video. But according to Rod Tiede, CEO of Broadcast International, a leading video technology innovator, the market will be stifled, despite strong user demand, by an inadequate infrastructure. This is especially true in the U.S. where much of the wireless infrastructure is still analog.
"Applications such as placeshifting and mobile social networking are very much in demand by users. The problem is too little available bandwidth. It simply won't support the pricing models, the image quality nor the raw quantity of video required without a major change in video compression technology or a multi-billion dollar infrastructure overhaul," said Tiede.
In the executive overview of an April 2007 report by Multimedia Research Group titled "Mobile TV: Global Standards Review & Forecast for Infrastructure and Handsets," it was reported that 60-85% of participants in a study were keen to purchase a video-enabled handset when they were shown the high-quality video service possible on the devices. A press release on the same report predicted that over 240 million TV-enabled hand-sets would be sold by 2011. Cell phone makers and operators are anxious to tap into this enormous market, but the infrastructure needs to be able to deliver the quantity and quality required.
"The market for video-enabled cell phones is poised to explode, but the infrastructure for delivering high-quality video to those small screens needs to change," said Tiede. "Video is extremely bandwidth-intensive; right now, the chokepoint in the infrastructure is video compression technology. Currently, video viewing over wireless devices requires at least 300K in bandwidth. That number needs to come down by close to 80% in order to make video delivery to cell phones practical and cost-effective for large numbers of viewers."
Broadcast International's CodecSys video compression technology can reduce bandwidth needs for video from 300 to as low as 60 Kbps over the current wireless infrastructure in the U.S. "That will go a long way toward alleviating the near-term bandwidth crisis in the wireless video market. It will also make the pricing models work much better for consumers and providers," said Tiede.
Solving the long-term bandwidth crisis
According to Tiede, the bandwidth crunch in the wireless infrastructure is just another example of a looming bandwidth crisis in other markets such as cable, IPTV and even Internet video, brought about by the explosive user demand for high-quality video. The bandwidth crisis is particularly troublesome in the U.S., which has dropped from fourth to 15th place on the broadband ranking kept by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In an Oct. 1st editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle titled "Our Fraying Internet Infrastructure," Michael Kleeman, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC, cited video compression as a technology critical to the resolution of the bandwidth crisis.
But Tiede cautions providers against choosing expedient solutions that won't adapt to change. "Infrastructure providers need to make sure that they are choosing the right strategy for the long haul, not just one that meets short-term demand. Long-term, they need an open, scalable solution that is easily upgradeable as standards change, and one that is capable of handling rapid increases in volume."
BI's patented video compression software, CodecSys, reduces bandwidth needs by more than 80% for HD-quality video over satellite, cable, IP and wireless networks. CodecSys achieves its breakthrough performance through an open, patented architecture that uses artificial intelligence to analyze a video stream and select the codec best suited to a particular video frame or sequence from an entire library of codecs. By selecting the best codec for the job, CodecSys is able to offer performance several times higher than competitive products, which rely on a single codec for every type of video stream. Its open software architecture enables new codecs or video compression standards to be easily accommodated when they emerge, virtually "future-proofing" the technology.
At IBC in Amsterdam last month, Broadcast International and IBM debuted the first public demonstration of a jointly developed video compression solution. The demo featured BI's patented CodecSys video compression software running on IBM's BladeCenter QS20 "Cell Blade" multi-core processor. The new video compression solution is highly scalable, allowing customers to easily add additional processing power by simply adding extra processors or "blades."