Multimedia broadcast technology selected

Digital Fountain, a vendor of telecommunications infrastructure technology, announced Tuesday that 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) selected Digital Fountain's DF Raptor technology as the single standard for the broadcasting of multimedia streams and files to cell phones.

3GPP is a consortium of numerous international telecommunications standards bodies.

The consortium is currently wrapping up Release 6 of its 3G standards, which will for the first time include a protocol for MBMS (multimedia broadcast multicast service).

Up until now, wireless operators were forced to deliver multimedia over unicast protocols, which is both inefficient and more expensive, according to Charlie Oppenheimer, CEO at Digital Fountain.

"If you have to deliver multimedia content on a unicast basis you may use 10 times the bandwidth but you can't charge 10 times the price," Oppenheimer said.

DF Raptor is a multicast protocol that also overcomes a singular challenge with broadcast technology -- there is no back channel for two-way communications that can be used to send error messages. Digital Fountain tackles the problem by using what the industry calls "erasure correction," which transmits a number of repair packets with every file or stream. The repair packets are specially encoded with an unusual property that is something akin to stem cells in that they can be used mathematically to recreate with precision any information lost in transmission.

"You become indifferent to which packets you receive as long as you receive enough of them," Oppenheimer said. "So the return channel isn't needed."

The technology offers major benefits to users, operators, and manufacturers.

For users, the technology can configure applications to withstand any amount of loss from a bad transmission. It also gives operators the ability to send extra packets with the least amount of bandwidth. For hardware manufacturers, it will allow them to lower the cost of equipment because it is "computationally efficient," Oppenheimer said.

There is also industry talk that the satellite radio networks Sirius and XM Satellite Radio are looking to use this technology to deliver both audio and video streams over their services in the future.

Although Digital Fountain will be paid a licensing fee by users, Oppenheimer

said its technology was selected over all the other public domain applications whose technology could have been selected without a licensing fee.

Release 6 of 3GPP's standard that will include MBMS is expected sometime in 2006.

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Ephraim Schwartz

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