Startup PacketZoom tackles 'need for speed' with new protocol, SDK for developers

PacketZoom, a mobile speed as a services (MSaaS) startup, unveiled a service offering built around a new protocol that is designed to speed users' app downloads.

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CEO Chetan Ahuja said he pursued the solution out of frustration. A former member of the technical staff of Riverbed Technology, he saw first-hand how bad connections could be while commuting by train, which is one of those places where apps relieve boredom. But none of the big companies were coming up with a good solution. So he left a full-time job--he also worked at AdMob and later Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) after the acquisition--to work on the issue himself.

The solution is a mobile networking protocol that is designed as part of an SDK that developers can incorporate into their apps. In private beta for about a year, the solution has produced experiences anywhere from 2x faster all the way up to 10x, said PacketZoom co-founder and COO John Joseph in an interview with FierceWirelessTech.

Typically, when you're downloading and come to a dead zone, the download fails and the end user just sees that it failed. With PacketZoom, as the user moves between networks, the experience stays the same and the download is not lost, he explained.

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"I think the frustration particularly comes to light when you have five bars of service and your downloads are still slow, and you don't understand why," Joseph said. When he first heard about what Ahuja was working on, "I was thinking to myself, I probably would have been one of those frustrated users who would just turn off my phone and do something else."

Instead, the company, which now employs less than 10 people in the Bay Area, sought to develop a protocol that basically makes the best use of the signal that's available, Ahuja said. As you're moving, the wireless signal goes in and out, but the protocols that are being used, like TCP, were invented years ago. "They were not invented for this world, the mobile world," he told FierceWirelessTech.

Legacy protocols consider the device's IP address as the destination for data packets. By identifying the device itself, and not its IP address, as the destination for data packets, PacketZoom accommodates for the intermittent nature of mobile connections in an intelligent, fault-tolerant manner, ensuring continuous connectivity as any mobile device moves across networks, according to the company.

Because the PacketZoom protocol incorporates sophisticated "situational awareness," it always knows a device's location, tracks dead zones and recognizes packet drops and other critical factors, all in real time, according to the company's press release. All these capabilities are provided through the PacketZoom stack without any client or service side code changes.

The service is designed to work particularly well in low-bandwidth networks or areas with spotty coverage. To leverage the PacketZoom service, mobile app developers just need to drag and drop the PacketZoom Speed SDK to their app.

PacketZoom comes to market with investors such as First Round Capital, Baseline, Founders Collective and Tandem Capital, which provided the seed funding for PacketZoom and its proprietary protocol-based service.

Joseph, who previously worked at Virgin Mobile USA, said it's possible in the future the company will approach carriers, but there's such a need at the developer level right now that it's a good place to start.

For more:
- see the press release

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