SlipStream aims data compression at middlemen

A Canadian developer of data compression technology doesn’t plan to sell its products directly to mobile carriers, but one research analyst says this is exactly the technology users are looking for when shopping for wireless data service.


Data Inc. of Waterloo, Ont. plans to offer SlipStream SP, a compression product designed to reduce the bandwidth required for Web browsing and e-mail use, to “”intermediaries”” that work with wireless carriers, said the company’s president, Ron Neumann. He added SlipStream does not plan to market SlipStream SP directly to the carriers because he believes they would not be receptive to a technology that would reduce the amount of bandwidth required to transfer content.

This is because most users of general packet radio services (GPRS) and 1XRTT services are billed by the amount of content transferred, rather than by air time. SlipStream SP reduces the amount of memory taken up by attachments, Web pages and other content. Therefore, with fewer megabytes crossing the radio frequencies, wireless customers’ bills would be reduced.

The compression technology was designed by SlipStream’s executive vice-president of research, En-hui Yang, a University of Waterloo electrical engineering professor who co-founded the company in April, 2000.

Neumann said the average compression ratio for an HTML file is 40:1 with SlipStream SP, compared to 5:1 using other products, he said.

SlipStream SP is programmed to construct algorithms which can be adjusted to the content being transferred, whether it’s Web pages or business forms based on software like Lotus Notes and SAP. It takes advantage of the fact that many Web pages — such as news sites, Yahoo! and Hotmail — use templates, which do not have to be transferred in their entirety every time the text on a page changes. It also eliminates or compresses some of the non-essential graphics present in Web content.

Most of SlipStream’s current customers are Internet service providers offering the technology to dial-up users under their own brand names (such as AOL Canada’s Netscape Online), but the vendor’s target market includes wireless carriers. Neumann said one wireless customer, which he could not name at press time but described as a “”intermediary”” rather than a carrier, plans to go public soon with its use of SlipStream SP.

Roberta Fox, president and senior partner of Markham, Ont.-based Fox Group Consulting, said there’s no question that wireless data customers want compression technology that will help them transfer files more quickly. Fox, whose company uses GPRS service for internal communication, said she was initially reluctant to buy wireless data service because it’s slower than high-speed wireline service.

“”Wireless just isn’t fast enough yet,”” she said, adding carriers could benefit from the technology because users might be more inclined to subscribe for service knowing they can transfer content more quickly.

Fox said “”old school”” executives at carriers might be reluctant to buy compression technology on the grounds that it could reduce the number of billable megabytes transferred across the network, but she added they will be “”won over”” by arguments that Web accelerators will help attract customers.

Fox said carriers who don’t use the technology may find that rivals who do adopt it are able to gain market share.

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