Opera's Skyfire optimizing streaming audio to prevent buffering and stalling

Skyfire's Rocket Optimizer now offers streaming audio optimization designed to work with most of the world's most popular streaming music services. The company, a unit of Opera Software, noted the move comes as more mobile operators are partnering with digital music streaming services as a way to differentiate their networks, improve customer loyalty and reduce churn.

"While audio is generally streamed at a lower bitrate than video, users often stream audio for hours at a time--consuming significant network bandwidth.  Furthermore, quality assurance is hugely important, as users are extremely sensitive to stalling in audio streams. Rocket Optimizer's audio optimization saves bandwidth where it is needed, while improving the overall consumer experience," said Nitin Bhandari, Skyfire CEO and Opera SVP of operator products.

Some operators have stopped counting music streaming against their customers' data plans. For example, the T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) Music Freedom program, launched in June, zero-rates data generated by select music streaming services. The carrier launched the service in June with support for iHeartRadio, iTunesRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker and Spotify and subsequently added Samsung's Milk service. This week, the operator said it is also adding AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio and Songza to the Music Freedom program.

In a study of mobile users in the United States, China, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, research firm Strategy Analytics recently found that 77 percent of mobile users listen to music on their phones, and 70 percent claim to do so at least once a week or more. In addition, 72 percent reported using their mobile phones to listen to music at least once a week when the service is bundled into their operator data plan.

Skyfire said its Rocket Optimizer manages streaming audio traffic the same way it optimizes mobile video traffic. The platform automatically detects when the end-user's live audio stream is about to stall, buffer or drop off entirely due to a poor connection and then instantly adapts the audio stream to fit the available capacity in the network. 

In addition to supporting popular streaming music services, Rocket Optimizer is also designed to work with what Skyfire called "long tail" streaming content hosted on myriad web sites. "It supports both MP3 and MP4 stream formats, and--unlike competing optimization solutions--can also convert streams to the more efficient AAC+ codec, which is able to deliver high audio quality over a low bitrate connection to any compatible device," Skyfire said.

For more:
- see this Skyfire release

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