Video streaming over GPRS world first for Kiwi company

Vodafone New Zealand is so impressed with streaming video from a local company that it's talking with its UK-based parent about taking the technology to the global market.

Vodafone New Zealand is so impressed with streaming video from a local company that it's talking with its UK-based parent about taking the technology to the global market.

Auckland-based Private Broadcast Solutions (PBS) has developed a compression technology that allows streaming video to be played over Vodafone's GPRS network at relatively low speeds and still be viewable, says CEO Mike Packer.

"GPRS provides the most stable platform of the three we've tried - we've looked at Telecom's CDMA set-up but GPRS has the best results."

While the PBS compression technology can be used on other platforms, Packer says the relationship with Vodafone has proved invaluable.

"They did due diligence on the product and treated us with respect and with trust. They trusted us to provide the product we said we would and it's paid off."

Packer says PBS will use its relationship with Vodafone to launch in 40 countries this year.

"New Zealand companies have to learn to share their development - they have to learn not to be greedy."

PBS has developed the technology over two years without any government funding or support. One of the first real-world applications of the technology, beyond things like streaming council is in the security field.

"We can control cameras remotely via GPRS and if an alarm is activated we can stream video directly to the patrol car so the security guards or police don't have to go in cold."

Another area of interest, says Packer, is that of kindergartens or primary schools allowing parents to watch their children.

Packer says most broadband technologies available today are still to be proven, and he questions whether broadband is even necessary.

"We went the other way and decided to try to make a 56Kbit/s dial-up as efficient as possible, to get the most out of it we can. That's why we can take a GPRS network and run streaming video across it. We were the first to do that on Vodafone's network."

The images run at around 20 frames per second - video, by way of comparison, normally runs at 24 fps.

Packer believes of the 4 million or so web servers in the world, around 20% have multimedia capacity.

"None of them are doing it efficiently - that's where we come in. We can turn that around."

Packer also wants to see more schools taking up the multimedia challenge.

"In the US 84% of schools have some kind of streaming media capability. In New Zealand the number is closer to 2%."

Packer says he took his handheld device to a school in the Wairarapa to show them what broadband was like.

"When I showed them the video of themselves sitting there broadcast live over the net, well it shut down the whole school. They were blown away."

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