New approaches will let smart-phone users send video and video chat with any other smart-phone user, regardless of the network or platform
Thanks to Skype, Apple FaceTime and at least a half dozen other mobile video apps, the old-fashioned phone call is becoming passé. Why just speak to someone when you can engage them in video chat or use your handset to transmit what is happening around you in real time? The problem, though, is that owners of the handsets must share the same software to communicate: Both users need to have Skype client software, say, or an iPhone 4 with FaceTime.
This compatibility hurdle, however, is about to fall, thanks to the introduction of new services that enable cross-platform mobile video. Skype recently announced a new service that lets users of certain Android phones make free video calls to Skype contacts, including those on Apple iPhones.
The expansion of Skype mobile video calls (currently for owners of the HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo and pro, and the Google Nexus S) is also likely to be a boon for Microsoft, which announced in May plans to buy the Internet calling company for $8.5 billion. Microsoft is also trying to promote its Windows Phone smart-phone platform, which it is merging with Nokia’s in an effort to compete with Android and Apple operating systems.
Mobile video will account for 66 percent of mobile data traffic by 2015 (up from 50 percent this year), according to network technology–maker Cisco, and wireless carriers are looking to tap into the demand. One option may be to work with service providers such as Tampa–based Syniverse, which is developing software to enable mobile video calling on 3G and 4G networks owned by the likes of AT&T, Sprint and Verizon without the need for specialized software running on the handset.
Syniverse offers a mobile video broadcast service designed to work regardless of a phone’s operating system or software. The phone sending the video must run a Syniverse app, but the phone receiving the video does not need any special software. When the sender of the video opens the Syniverse app, it creates a Web link that is automatically transmitted to mobile numbers and e-mail addresses that the sender has previously designated. The receiver clicks on the link and is directed to a Web site where the live, streaming video feed is available. The service has been available since late last year in South Korea and is likewise available to North American wireless carriers, although none are offering it yet.
Korea Telecom (KT), South Korea’s second-largest wireless carrier, is working with Syniverse to offer its subscribers with Google Android phones a service for capturing and sharing a live stream the way one would normally send a text message. KT made the decision to offer an Android app first because of the demand for mobile phones using Google’s operating system—support for other platforms, such as the iPhone, will likely be added. KT subscribers can share user-generated (or peer-to-peer) video broadcasts with anyone who has a data-enabled mobile device or an e-mail address. Whereas YouTube videos can also be shared via a hyperlink, those videos are not live. Syniverse says it can perform on-the-fly dynamic transcoding to adapt screen resolution for each stream, optimizing performance for any network.