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Mobile Europe: Bamboo shoots to prominence with rich media for the masses

Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001
01 August 2001 - Bamboo MediaCasting is preparing to revolutionize the economics of rich media delivery.

The company has pioneered a technology called multicasting which allows the same content to be delivered to virtually unlimited subscribers over the same air channel simultaneously - much like the cable TV concept. This means that operators can broadcast affordable rich-media content to the masses, utilizing minimal bandwidth, over GPRS and 3G networks.

Operators will be keenly awaiting the arrival of the technology - which is currently undergoing field trials in Israel, where the Delaware-based company conducts much of its activity, primarily because of the flat-rate, mass appeal business model. Yaron Ziv, Bamboo's VP Marketing believes the service will also serve as a major incentive for consumers to make the switch to 2.5 and 3G phones, which is also good news for the OEMs and the industry in general. In conjunction, it opens up another mass market channel to content providers and advertisers alike.

As opposed to Unicasting, Multicasting only uses a downlink, so the user will have a choice of scheduled content that is determined by the operator, and, should the operator broadcast on more that one channel, the user can then chose what kind of content he wishes to view. The key consumer difference between the two is the markets for which they are intended to serve.
Unicasting will allow the user to view specific content, either as a download, or in real time, but the problem here is that in order to achieve a reasonable level of video quality, a minimum of 32 kbit/s is required, while 64 kbit/s would be ideal, according to Ziv. However, whithe several phones consuming 61kbit/s, even 3G cells are going to struggle, so it has to be expensive, very expensive, according to Ziv, this was the reason Bamboo began to search for a solution.

"Obviously the main stream will be reluctant to watch clips at this price, but if you lower the price, then you are going to overload the network with so much traffic that you're going to kill it. It's not like the Internet where you can add more fibre optics and routers and add more capacity, this is the physics of the air: you have X number of frequencies, and that's it - you can't have any more. So that's why we're focusing on Multicasting. The key word here is that it's affordable. With Unicasting you consume bandwidth, so it's expensive, but it is suitable for mission critical applications or other applications where people are willing to pay a high price. With Multicasting, users will pay a flat fee and watch as much as they want because they don't consume bandwidth. So we think it's going to change the economics of rich media delivery".

The system behind the delivery is the MMS500, which takes the content and readies it for broadcast over the network. It adds, what Ziv terms a "clever algorithm", and changes the frame rate and the bit rate so that it is optimisd for the network. In order to use the service, the operator has to install the system then has to load a "small client software" onto the phone (about 1K)
And can then strike up content agreements to create its service offering. But then of course, there is the small matter of the phone themselves.
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