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Mobile World Congress: Is memory the new bandwidth?

Neeraj Roy of Hungama writes about a new technology which allows streaming of data on memory cards.

For any internet environment, be it mobile or PC, sustaining bandwidth continues to be a challenge. If we want consumers to truly enjoy a heightened experience in mobility and communication, it is important to find alternatives that allow platforms and content to deliver that experience.
Our experience at the SanDisk bay re-affirms the fact that memory cards and micro SD cards (flash memory cards for mobile) are an option to choking networks. Before we delve into the benefits, here’s how the product works:
SanDisk has introduced a format where SD Cards are pre-bundled with a large library of the top 1,000 songs listed on Billboard in USA. These songs are broken into playlists of ‘streaming channels’ based on the genre of music. Simply purchase the card, insert it in your mobile phone’s memory slot and start playing music. ‘Streaming’ is the real highlight, as it is an embedded feature which does not require mobile bandwidth to play the music.
Each time you want to listen to the song, you are required to go through the channels and find your song to play it. This is because, the channel functions on the ‘mobile radio’ principle which does not allow you to skip directly to your music. If you like a particular song and need easy access, you can download the song onto the SD card itself in a separate memory or onto the mobile memory. The SD Card, despite holding 1,000 songs, is available with 4GB of additional memory.
All of this, comes at an attractive price point of $40 (about Rs 1,700), which brings down per song cost to as low as 4 cents (Rs 1.80). Imagine the possibilities for Indian music and entertainment companies. For consumers, they can discover new songs by adding new genre channels to the SD Card. New genres can be downloaded easily when you have bandwidth and GPRS connectivity available. They can choose to retain genres they like and do away with what they don’t like. The SD cards are also equipped with additional memory for miscellaneous use for pictures, videos and other multimedia.
SanDisk is also playing on the ‘impulse’ factor for increasing scope of consumption. While sampling content via streaming, if consumers come across something they like they may be compelled to download the music onto their phone memory, so that they have easy access for repeat listening. This would need to be done via a GPRS, 3G, or internet connection. This opens up scope of both for operators and content providers. It is perhaps interesting to see how a service like this changes the experience for consumers and maybe even change the ballgame for two important things we have been discussing at the MWC – data and streaming.

(Neeraj Roy is Managing Director and CEO, Hungama Mobile and the Mobile Entertainment Forum Asia Board Chairman)

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