Mobile video-streaming app for low-bandwidth Africa

20 August 2014

A South African developed video streaming solution, specially designed to cater for the low-speed internet environment encountered in most parts of Africa, has been released as a free mobile application for Apple and Android phones.

The platform, known as Adaptive Real-Time Internet Streaming Technology (Artist), makes unbroken video-streaming possible with the use of algorithms to adjust quality to available bandwidth – meaning that the rate at which a video streams varies depending on the available bandwidth at the time.

Artist’s rate-adaptive technology makes buffering a thing of the past, by automatically adjusting picture quality to ensure that the video stream does not have to buffer or break. Users can increase video quality with a simple volume-like button, allowing them to control their own data costs.

The platform was developed by a consortium of researchers and engineers from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the University of Cape Town and East Coast Access, and is now being commercialised by start-up company Tuluntulu (the Zulu word for “stream”).

The mobile app, recently launched on the Apple iOS and Google Android App stores, delivers 10 unique “TV-type” channels 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The download of the app is free, but viewers do pay for the associated data costs.

The new technology could have a major impact in Africa, where accessible bandwidth is still an issue.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates that fixed (in other words, high speed) broadband penetration is less than 1% in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to about 27.2% in developed nations.

For mobile subscriptions, however, Africa isn’t nearly as far behind the rest of the world as it is with high-speed broadband. The ITU reports that per 100 inhabitants, Africa has around 63.5 mobile subscriptions, while Asian regions are at 88.7, Europe is at 126.5 and the Americas are at 109.4.

“The app opens up new opportunities for content creators and advertisers across the African continent,” Tuluntulu CEO Pierre van der Hoven said in a statement last week.

“Only two of the launch channels are established broadcast channels and the rest are new players in the market. There are now new voices, new content and new business models,” Van der Hoven said.

“The reach offered by this medium can also have a quick and significant impact in areas such as education. Furthermore, with users able to control their own data costs, they can watch video content for as little as R5 an hour.”

SAinfo reporter