Aylus Prepares for the Coming IP Video Storm

Apple's coming iPhone will likely unleash a flood on one-to-one videoconferencing. How will the carriers cope?

By Adam Stone | Posted May 27, 2010
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For the past four years, Aylus Networks of Westford, Mass. has been developing new techniques to deliver real-time, one to one video transmission.

Now there’s word that an iPhone with a forward-facing camera is about to hit the streets. That means it’s show time.

"The only reason for a forward facing camera is to take a picture of yourself, to do video conferencing," said VP of Marketing Fred Sammartino. "The question is, what will the networks have to do in order to support hundreds of millions of people online doing that at the same time?"

One thing they won’t be doing is caching. That technology is scarcely adequate to keep up with this "tsunami" of video traffic, said Managing Director Ray Pasquale. Nor will they be able to rely on YouTube-style network pacing to optimize the flow.

Aylus Networks offers an alternative in the form of a processing model that allows for on-the-fly transcoding and transizing: That is, the ability to adapt video signal for different screens and different devices. At the same time, Aylus will optimize bandwidth usage, keeping usage to a minimum through video pre-processing.

Optimization will be a do-or-die proposition once those forward-facing cameras become available. Pasquale predicts a deluge of video usage, especially among young people accustomed and eager to make contact at every conceivable level—all the time.

"It’s going be kids sending video clips to YouTube and to their social networks from their phones. The notion of a phone call is going to be completely redefined once that happens," he said. "Video is finally going to arrive in a fairly serious way."

In principle, none of this should have a very great impact on voice traffic. "Voice is a small component of overall data traffic. The operators have well defined policies in their data and VoIP networks to ensure that voice will get preference as needed," Pasquale said.

Those policies surely will come into play as the pace of traffic picks up. For carriers trying to manage voice and data through networks of inherently limited capacity, optimization of the sort Aylus describes could ease a bottleneck currently building up as video signal encounters multiple devices. Loosening that log jam is vital in a world where carriers have been unable to keep up with the pace of advances in devices.

"The carriers are about five years behind the curve in terms of capacity. Steve Jobs can issue more iPhones than carriers can add capacity," Pasquale said.

Aylus is not alone in the effort to manage the coming video wave. Companies like ByteMobile and Flash Networks also are working in the space.

Aylus Networks foresees multiple markets for its product. The company will market directly to carriers, who will add high-grade video services as a value-add to their users. "Will they be able to sell that for $2 or $3 more a month? I guarantee you they would, and that will help them defray the cost of build-out," Pasquale said.

The big money, though, will come from content providers, who would buy the product in order to optimize delivery of their offerings. They’ll want to be sure that their content gets through cleanly and seamlessly regardless of device or carrier, Pasquale said. "They want to get their content to as many end points as possible: That’s their business."

Here the model bifurcates. On the one hand, Aylus likely will sell directly to the content providers in some cases.

It is more likely, though, that the company will sell to carriers who in turn resell to the content providers. The complex food chain makes sense, Pasquale said, when you look at the positions of all the players:

Aylus already will have deep connections with carriers, who are, after all, its primary customers. Content providers in turn will be plugged into the carriers, without whose networks their video data could never reach the end users. The carriers therefore become a natural pivot point for any effort to enhance video delivery.

At the same time, it behooves all parties to keep the carriers engaged, rather than leave them standing on the sidelines as the rest of the industry struggles through the sea-change of one-to-one videoconferencing. "We’ve got to bring these carriers into this revolution. Everyone has to be a winner," Pasquale said.

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