Big fish moves into the online streaming pond

Seattle-based RealNetworks has launched an Australian Internet broadcast network, which lets Internet users access high-quality, real-time video and audio streaming.

To trial the product late last month, RealNetworks broadcast the debut performance of Australian pop outfit Bardot over its Real Broadcast Network.

Australian MD Chris Jacobson said the Real Broadcast Network "performed beautifully", but he was unable to reveal how many Australians logged on to enjoy the show "for customer privacy reasons".

Jacobson defined the company's Real Broadcast Network as "a specialised broadcast network that allows streaming audio and video across the Internet".

"Many people want to do streaming themselves but come to realise that the big limitation is bandwidth," said Jacobson.

"It's difficult to ensure you have enough capacity to meet demand."

He explained that RealNetworks partnering ISPs used "splitters", which divide the bandwidth burden of streaming audio and video Web broadcasts between ISPs and customers.

The ISPs could "split the signal", enabling the ISP to broadcast just once for every 1000 users.

A broadcast attracting 10,000 visitors needed only 10 connections to the original RealNetworks server, whereas previously the server would be required to send the broadcast once for every user, he said.

This eliminates the congestion caused by one-to-one connections, which overload the Internet and greatly reduce the quality of the reception increasing the cost of delivering the material.

The signal to be broadcast is picked by Primius Telecom from either the live site or the producer's premises and relayed to the Real Broadcast Network hosting facilities at GlobalCenter in Sydney and Melbourne. From there, the encoded signal is relayed to the intelligent splitter network via the infrastructural partners.

From GlobalCenter, the transmission is sent over dedicated high-speed links to ISP partners who split the signal and send it to individual users over the Internet, or to other ISPs who feed their own end users.

Due to the interconnectivity of Australia's three-tier ISP model, Jacobson said Australian Web users can access the Real Broadcast Network via any ISP.

RealNetworks has also launched its Website, real.com.au - a portal to Australian online broadcast content providers.

In the US, real.com ranks in the top 10 sites in the world.

Jacobson said RealNetworks plans to follow the Bardot spectacle with around-the-clock, seven-days-a-week streaming content.

Several companies, including Village Ten Online and the National Bank have committed to use the network to broadcast annual general meetings and other corporate events and the AFL has also indicated it will use the system to televise live games with commentary.

A new Australian B2B company e-cademy will use the system to deliver interactive education and market analysis over the Internet.

RealNetworks' technology is also used by Net ventures, a supplier of hardware, software and services to conferencing, media, government and corporate clients.

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