Fat Pipes Encourage Downloading, Not Streaming
By Eric Lin, Wed Oct 13 23:15:00 GMT 2004

Contrary to predictions, users are not streaming multimedia over high speed networks. Now applications are shifting away from streaming, just as new technology is launched to help advance it.


After suspending its trial of Sony's StreamMan music service, TeliaSonera has relaunched StreamMan -- this time with downloads. The new service continues to offer the user defined and predefined streams, however it appears users will also be able to choose from a library of 400,000 tracks to download as well. The new StreamMan also follows another recent trend -- allowing users to listen to their customized channels from a PC, not just on their handset.

Sonera has just launched its 3G network, and along with it a special version of the Nokia 6630, which should make will allow subscribers to take maximum advantage of the new StreamMan service. KDDI has also announced that user of its CDMA 1x networks, will be able to download tracks to a few new handsets beginning next month. As of July, KDDI didn't expect to launch this service until next Spring and spoke of handsets far less capable than what it is launching next month.

Much to the carriers' dismay, no doubt, streaming is losing out, and not just for music. Interest in streaming video over cellular networks is also waning as TV broadcasts and user-created content captures subscribers' attention. Even before these new technologies, interest in streaming media took second place behind downloading. Following the way people use computers, once they have a high speed network, storage, and a decent processor on their handset, they want to use phones the same way -- download content when it catches their attention and watch / listen to it at their leisure.

The carriers would prefer users stream content because it makes them more money. They don't make any money from satellite TV, and most of the money from music downloads go to publishers, not networks. Despite the trend away from streaming, Qualcomm has announced two new products to help operators hang on to the dream. It has launched an add-on for EV-DO networks and a platform agnostic network layer for other technologies for multicasting. Both are designed to help carriers broadcast a particular stream to multiple users in a cell. Even if streaming is on the rise, despite indications to the contrary, there are very few situations during which enough users would be streaming the same content at the same time in the same cell to justify this sort of technology.