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Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Australian Video Compression Trails in Russia

Russian citizens could soon be watching TV on their mobile phones following a trial of video compression software developed by Australian developer Blaze.

Blaze will trial its PIXe video transmission compression technology on Russian carrier Mobile TeleSystems' GSM and GPRS networks to test the viability of delivery of television and other streaming video services. The telco is Russia's largest mobile service provider, with 45 million customers.

Blaze chief executive officer Peter Jon Hartshorne says telcos in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe want to jump-start advanced services such as streaming video without the expense of upgrading to so-called 3G networks.

"In an emerging market where 3G is not yet deployed, they are struggling now to find opportunities for non-voice-related, value-added opportunities on the network," he says.

"Rather than wait around for massive network upgrades or improvements, or a move to third-generation (networks), they are now wanting to run trials at lower levels on pretty low-spec handsets."

The PIXe compression technology uses an optical principle called "short-range apparent motion", which eliminates data from an image while fooling the eye into believing that nothing is missing. When used with a secondary compression codec (compressor-decompressor) such as MPEG-4, files can be reduced in size by as much as 90 per cent, according to the Australian company.

Mr Hartshorne says that although his company planned to test its technology over a commercial network, he did not expect it to happen so quickly.

Technical development has picked up pace to meet the trial deadline, which was brokered by South Korean technology maker Samsung.

PIXe dovetails with industry standard compression codecs, such as the highly compressed H.264 but the lack of technical sophistication of most handsets used in Russia requires Blaze to work with the older MPEG-2 standard - the first time it has done so across a GSM network. Roadblocks lie within the network because it operates at a much higher capacity than networks in Australia.

"We've exchanged technical data and we believe we are not going to get a better opportunity than this," Mr Hartshorne says. "We are assuming that the problems that they are having with capacity on their network to stream video would be the same in any emerging market. We are basing a massive part of our penetration strategy on emerging markets, so what we are going to do here is mitigate that risk very early."

He says PIXe's future lies outside Australia. Once the Russian trial gets under way he will resume his search for a US-based CEO.

"Given that 80 cents in every dollar in video compression goes through the US, we need to be there week to week, having good discussions with partners. We've made the decision the executive team will reside out of the San Francisco office. This is a really big game and I need someone who has done a big game like this before."

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