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  • Apple: Video Apps Must Adapt to AT&T's Network


    Streaming video apps were verboten on the App Store for years, while AT&T's network was falling over itself trying to handle just basic connectivity. Finally, after customer outcries forced AT&T to beef up their network - particular in the larger cities where many iPhone users dwell - apps like SlingPlayer were granted the right to stream video over AT&T's network. However, at least according to the carrier, they had to rework their app to "optimize" it for use with AT&T's network. Now, Apple is apparently placing the same restriction on video-streaming apps that will be carried on the App Store. Justin.TV's vice-president Evan Solomon told TechCrunch that Apple required that their iPhone app be able to downgrade to a lower-quality video stream when AT&T's network is congested.

    Last year, Sling released its SlingPlayer app for the iPhone, but Apple restricted it to use with WiFi connections only. Sling blamed AT&T and AT&T, in effect, blamed Sling, with an AT&T spokesman saying "it's absolutely cool" that the app can redirect your home TV connection to your phone, "but if we allowed these kinds of services, the highway would quickly become clogged." The problem was, of course, that AT&T already allowed the BlackBerry version of the SlingPlayer, not to mention iPhone apps like Major League Baseball's MLB.com At Bat. Finally, AT&T gave its blessing to SlingPlayer, but only after Sling "optimized [the SlingPlayer app] for our 3G network to conserve wireless spectrum and reduce the risk that an app will cause... extreme levels of congestion."

    Now, Apple is apparently laying the same type of restriction on other video-streaming apps. In situations where network conditions become so congested that the standard bitrate can't run on the 3G network, or if the phone switches to the EDGE network, the app will have to support a less bandwidth-intense stream. Justin.TV encodes its content in two versions, adding a 64kbps stream as the fall-back to the standard 200kbps stream. Solomon said that they "were a bit confused by this request at the time, as none of the other live video applications in the App Store had that feature." However, he continued, "Apple was very adamant that we add it—they wouldn’t approve our app without it."

    Apple has been encouraging the use of adaptive bitrates for streaming video since officially sanctioning HTTP streaming in iPhone OS 3.0, allowing phones to autoselect the best bitrate for a stream depending on network conditions. And since Apple has been strongly promoting the video capabilities of the new iPad, with its much larger screen, both Apple and AT&T are probably fearing that the onslaught of millions of new video-hogs will choke its network. But it's a double-edged sword: Verizon will be waiting to entice users onto its network, where adaptive bitrate encoding will mean users would be more likely to get full resolution.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple: Video Apps Must Adapt to AT&T's Network started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 29 Comments
    1. confucious's Avatar
      confucious -
      Carriers in the UK specifically prohibit streaming video on basic 3G packages. and have caps on data usage.
      The explosion in the amount of data used has to be managed and for the vast majority of users it is fine, but a few users use vast amounts of data with no regard to other users and expect the data network which has been expanded very rapidly to cope with it?
      Maybe things are different in America where people seem to expect the impossible .
      3G networks are expanding very rapidly in most countries - but data usage is expanding quicker.
      If everyone streams video the network will become unusable. 3G was never intended to take such heavy usage and no network would be able to cope with it.
      But, hey, it's fun to bash AT&T, so feel free to carry on.
    1. Comedy's Avatar
      Comedy -
      Anyone who thinks the rest of the world has reason to be jealous of the US (at least in iPhone terms) really needs to get out more.

      I work in both the US and the UK and live in either New York or London depending on the time. I have an iPhone contract in each country that gives me calls (600 mins UK, 900 US - but you're charged to receive), unlimited texts and data. This costs me $110 a month in the US even though I had my own iPhone already, in the UK the same plan costs me 20 quid ($30).

      On top of that when I'm home in New York I'm just off Bryant Park, although I get 3G all over the city the speeds are normally between 10 and 20kB/s there. Right now I'm near Bank Station in London and just ran my speedtest app, it shows me I'm getting 470kB/s here.


      I still think it's a good idea though that Apple prepare apps to be run on bad networks. Most users won't notice the difference. Only those in the states where their '3G' network runs at such slow speeds.

      Oh... call quality too. Lines are so bad in the states, 'fuzzy' or quiet, that sometimes it makes sense not to use the phone at all.

      Hats off to you guys for inventing the telephone but just leave the improvement of it to us in the rest of the world
    1. cmwade77's Avatar
      cmwade77 -
      Actually this one makes some sense....if the network (whatever network you are on) is too busy to get full bandwidth, then instead of completely stopping the video from playing, drop it's bandwidth to something that can be played. Really, even my work internet connection can get congested enough that it can't play videos, having an adaptive bitrate means that it's more likely that I'll actually be able to watch the video that I want to, when I want to.

      As for the previous poster, if you are spending $110 for that plan, you are spending too much, AT&T has completely unlimited plans (that work with the iPhone) for less.
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Quote Originally Posted by n00neimp0rtant View Post
      80 countries. 80 carriers. And Apple is making every app conform to the "demands" of one of them. This is why I don't have a girlfriend anymore. There's this thing called a compromise.
      Of all the iPhones sold worldwide, almost 60% of those sales are in the USA, with Western Europe and Asia representing the second largest sector of sales at 26%. The rest of the dozens of countries where the iPhone is sold collectively make up 14% of worldwide sales. Apple wants to take care of the country where their sales dominate the most. Keeping their US carrier happy is a VERY smart move, economically speaking.

      Quote Originally Posted by Comedy View Post
      Anyone who thinks the rest of the world has reason to be jealous of the US (at least in iPhone terms) really needs to get out more.

      I work in both the US and the UK and live in either New York or London depending on the time. I have an iPhone contract in each country that gives me calls (600 mins UK, 900 US - but you're charged to receive), unlimited texts and data. This costs me $110 a month in the US even though I had my own iPhone already, in the UK the same plan costs me 20 quid ($30).

      On top of that when I'm home in New York I'm just off Bryant Park, although I get 3G all over the city the speeds are normally between 10 and 20kB/s there. Right now I'm near Bank Station in London and just ran my speedtest app, it shows me I'm getting 470kB/s here.


      I still think it's a good idea though that Apple prepare apps to be run on bad networks. Most users won't notice the difference. Only those in the states where their '3G' network runs at such slow speeds.

      Oh... call quality too. Lines are so bad in the states, 'fuzzy' or quiet, that sometimes it makes sense not to use the phone at all.

      Hats off to you guys for inventing the telephone but just leave the improvement of it to us in the rest of the world
      The thing that most UK users don't take into consideration is the vastness of the USA versus the entire country of England. It costs just a little bit more (sarcasm here, I actually mean a LOT) to get the infrastructure necessary to get 3G to the masses here. The 3G speeds you are seeing is probably due to the incredibly large amounts of bandwidth being used in NYC. If I remember correctly, NYC are the most bandwidth hungry iPhone users in the world. That certainly doesn't help matters. Here in Iowa (yes, much lesser population) my bandwidth is currently clocking in at 1888 kilobits/sec. I am certain ATT cell towers are identical, they are simply far fewer users here than in NYC. I also cannot speak for your contract, but I assume you cannot travel anywhere in Europe without being charged some sort of roaming? In the US, included in the plan is essentially a roaming fee, where one can go anywhere in the 50 states and no be charged extra. Again, I am only using this to point out the fact that most of Europe's countries would need to be included in the "free roaming charge" in order to make an apples to apples comparison of the two providers. Granted, an easy solution to this would be to have an ATT plan that does not include roaming, but I think all US networks have gotten rid of that over the last ten or so years.

      As to the improvements to the telephone, I am pretty sure Japan has the US an UK beat hands down. They had what we currently have ten years ago in terms of networks.
    1. Happy Noodle Boy's Avatar
      Happy Noodle Boy -
      Yes let's continue comparing the US with UK and Japan.

      US carriers have it easy covering all 9.6 MILLION square kilometers that make the cintinental united states unlike the UK (245,000) and Japan (374,000). Man they have their work cut out.

      One day people will get this: the US is BIG. Like really, really frigging big n
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Happy Noodle Boy View Post
      Yes let's continue comparing the US with UK and Japan.

      US carriers have it easy covering all 9.6 MILLION square kilometers that make the cintinental united states unlike the UK (245,000) and Japan (374,000). Man they have their work cut out.

      One day people will get this: the US is BIG. Like really, really frigging big n
      You summed up what I was trying to say in a few short sentences
    1. i3ronx's Avatar
      i3ronx -
      if iphone goes to verizon i would break a leg to get it
    1. confucious's Avatar
      confucious -
      Quote Originally Posted by Happy Noodle Boy View Post
      Yes let's continue comparing the US with UK and Japan.

      US carriers have it easy covering all 9.6 MILLION square kilometers that make the cintinental united states unlike the UK (245,000) and Japan (374,000). Man they have their work cut out.

      One day people will get this: the US is BIG. Like really, really frigging big n
      The problems faced in the US are massive. Even here in the UK no one carrier has coverage everywhere, but if one carrier doesn't cover your area then chances are another will, pop in another SIM and you've changed carriers.

      Also, the bandwidth problems are reduced in the UK by caps on data usage, tethering being a paid add on (if you don't pay you can get charged - get a £20k bill and you probably won't do it again) and restrictions on streaming video/radio.

      I know everyone wants totally unlimited data but the networks simply can't cope (even here in our little country) and a few people tethering and streaming video is why the data speeds in NYC suffer so much.

      3G is far better than Edge but there is still a contention ratio and the mobile data network was designed for browsing the web, not for streaming data, despite what some people think.

      I can't help feeling that if AT&T banned (or at least severely restricted) streaming and tethering the vast majority of their iPhone users would find their experience a lot better.

      A few people using a lot of data can ruin the experience for the many that don't.

      Even in the UK your experience varies and the problems are a hundred times worse in the US but in the case of restricting video streaming I believe Apple/AT&T are only trying to do the best for the majority of their customers. You can't please all the people, all of the time...

      Just my 2d's worth.
    1. GellBrake'rrrr's Avatar
      GellBrake'rrrr -
      Confucious..... You have a VERY valid point!