Fastfilmz is leveraging new technology from V-Nova to deliver a video service over 2G mobile data networks in India. In this interview with the founders we look at how the service provides video for millions who had no access to service before, and at how it is helping defeat the pirates.
Fastfilmz is a movie service primarily designed for mobile phones. It allows customers to stream and download movies over mobile networks. Leveraging V-Nova Perseus, the company can even do this over 2G mobile networks.
Dominic Charles, Co-CEO of fastfilmz, says that 70% of the Indian market is still using 2G, with 25% on 3G, and just 5% with 4G. Being able to deliver on 2G allows fastfilmz to increase its addressable market by 2 to 3 times. This allows the company to reach “small town” India, a market previously out of reach for most other Internet video services.
Karam Malhotra, Co-CEO of fastfilmz, says the services targets delivery at between 100 and 200 Kbps over 2G networks. They also support profiles all the way up to full HD for other networks with more bandwidth available. Mr. Malhotra says 100Kbps is sufficient to deliver 180p video at a slightly lower frame rate than normal. However, this is sufficient to get a reasonable video experience on a 2-3 inch screen.
Mr. Charles says that the primary way people are watching mobile video is through piracy. They buy physical media and side-load it to their phone. They are paying to do this; it is not free. He said he approached the content providers to work with fastfilmz to undercut the street price of the pirates. Initially, they were resistant to the idea, but have grown comfortable with it over time.
Mr. Malhotra says the company works with mobile operators in two ways. The first is to get them to open up their billing system so they can accept micro-payments. The second is to help them sell data. Introducing people to video helps them see the value of the service, and that having more data allows them to watch more video.
The service did a pilot release through June. In July, it officially launched, and has already seen 150,000 app downloads. Of those, 70% are active watching an hour a week of video. Part of the allure of the service is that it provides content in local languages. There are half a billion Indians that do not speak Hindi or English. For them there are few legal alternatives to watch video in their native language.