9 November 2012

Africa: Tuluntulu's Low Bandwidth Video Streaming Service Could Open Up Video to a New Market Ahead of Lte

London — Tuluntulu has a technology that can deliver video over EDGE. It ensures that the audio signal remains intact and reduces picture quality with out breaking as the bandwidth goes down. It offers anything from good quality to rough and ready, depending on how much bandwidth is available. Russell Southwood spoke to the entrepreneur behind it, Pierre van der Hoven, last week.

The most frustrating thing about trying to watch video in the African context is that after a minute or two, the video buffers and you have to wait some time before watching the next piece of video and so on to the end of the video. If you're very patient, you'll stick with it to the end but most give up before that point.

What Tuluntulu does is to manage the video streaming with low bandwidth in mind: it can operate down to 30 kbps so a really low bandwidth connection. It keeps the audio track in place at all times and makes sure that the video does not break or buffer. The price for doing this will vary depending on the bandwidth supplied so you get everything from the kind of picture you would expect from streaming You Tube HD footage to a much rougher and less detailed picture on a lower bandwidth connection. This is not something that's going to worry people if they're watching, news or music videos, for example.

In the demonstrations that Pierre van der Hoven showed me last week on a tablet and a smart phone, the pictures were perfectly acceptable if you were watching a news programme but struggled to capture blackboard lessons. But it's worth making the point that once you know the limitations, it's possible to work round them. For many African users, it has the capability to deliver to them their first taste of video content on their phone without completely emptying the units loaded on the phone.

As Pierre van der Hoven explained:"It's a technology to deliver video to GSM networks. We can manage the bandwidth and deliver into low bandwidth environments. What that really means is that we can go into rural areas and by managing the signal, we can manage the cost to the end user. It enables us to increase the potential reach of video for operators."

So who is the service aimed at outside of end-users?:"Anybody who needs to communicate so people like content owners, broadcasters and niche TV players." It could also be used by corporates for a company-wide communication channel. He also emphasizes the potential educational impact of the service and is already working with an existing learning channel provider to secure relevant content and also looking at health projects.

Over the past few years a consortium led by CSIR South Africa developed specialized technology known as ARTIST that allows streaming video to be viewed on mobile devices, in low bandwidth or congested environments. The consortium approached Pierre van der Hoven to commercialize the technology and the new company called Tuluntulu (meaning "stream" in Zulu) was launched. Van der Hoven now has to raise the capital to launch the company but thinks that an operational service will be available in three months time.

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