Verizon Plans a Fast Lane for Some Apps

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wireless provider Verizon has developed technology that would allow mobile apps to request extra bandwidth for short periods—to fix a choppy video call if a local cell tower is experiencing high demand, for example, or to ensure that a video plays smoothly.

The feature is intended to allow bandwidth-hungry apps to survive even as soaring wireless Internet traffic from smart phones and tablets strains the networks serving them. However, users or the companies that make data-hogging apps will have to pay for such turbo boosts, and the feature could face opposition from advocates of "net neutrality," the philosophy that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.

Verizon demonstrated the new feature—which is still in development—at the company's Application Innovation Center in San Francisco last week. High-quality video streaming over a 4G cellular link became pixilated as the available bandwidth was throttled, to simulate what can happen when a lot of users request data in the same area. That was reversed when the application receiving the video used a new API to request a bandwidth boost.

"Maybe, for the first time in the world, programs can make the network coincide with their business and technology goals," says Hugh Fletcher, who leads Verizon's efforts to allow outside software to access data and features of the company's cellular network that are traditionally meant for internal use only.


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