Digital Fountain, based in California, is launching its ToughStream technology for internet protocol television services, using forward error correction to ‘strengthen’ streams and protect them from errors and losses associated with data networks.

Network operators and technology providers tend to talk about the importance of ‘quality of service’ requirements to deliver audio and video reliably over data networks.

Internet protocol networks typically involve issues of packet loss, latency and jitter which can cause interruptions or introduce errors to time-critical audio and video services.

Yet broadcasters routinely deal with delivering digital data through wireless broadcast networks that are inherently unreliable and unidirectional. One way they can achieve this is through Forward Error Correction or FEC, effectively introducing redundancy into the signal so that it is more resistant to transmission errors.

Digital Fountain Toughstream uses their Raptor FEC technology, standardised in 2005 by both the 3GPP and DVB-H bodies, which minimizes bandwidth overhead and virtually eliminates buffering delays by recovering lost data without requiring retransmission.

“The secret is out and network architects are realizing that FEC enables TV-grade delivery over IP while eliminating the requirement to over-provision networks,” said Charlie Oppenheimer, chief executive of Digital Fountain. “The ToughStream Engine allows developers of IPTV and Internet TV applications to bring to market quickly FEC-enabled solutions that will deliver perfect quality streams while saving money and bandwidth for operators and content providers.”

Prior to ToughStream, the company says developers wishing to incorporate FEC had to understand how FEC works, create or adopt some suitable protocol and then spend months tuning to achieve the desired results. Often, such solutions were inflexible to the varying demands of different networks.

With ToughStream, developers are presented with a simple and familiar network socket architecture. ToughStream handles all of the complexities of FEC processing and data transport automatically.

A hardware-based evaluation platform is available that allows network operators and technology vendors to test the system with needing to write code.

The Raptor technology is currently in use in StreamCruiser set-top boxes used by subscribers of the NTT video-on-demand services in Japan.