Tuluntulu, a mobile broadcast app, has launched on the Apple App and Google Play stores. The app delivers more than 10 TV-type channels, ranging in content from international news to African documentaries.

The app offers users cheap, fast and easy access to mobile video and content creators and advertisers access to a potential audience of millions of people across the continent.

Users can download the app and view streamed video content for free. Viewers do, however, pay data costs, which vary according to mobile network providers. The app works on WiFi at no incremental cost.

The Tuluntulu technology has been specifically designed to minimise data costs, and to operate within the limitations of Africa’s under-developed telecommunications infrastructure.

Africa is at the wrong side of the digital divide. Mobile bandwidth costs are amongst the highest in the world, limiting consumers’ ability to access content on their phones.

Most popular sites, such as You Tube, are designed for use in the developed world, where the majority of users have access to WiFi 3G and 4G networks.

Site owners presume that users want high quality content; they stream content to users at between 140 kilo-bytes per second (kbps) and 280 kbps, which are too high for most of the developing world’s congested networks and low-bandwidth environments.

This is why users often spend as much time watching content buffer as they do watching the content itself, incurring costs as their device burns data.

Tuluntulu overcomes this problem in a number of ways. The technology is rate-adaptive, which means that the rate at which the video streams to the phone adapts to the available bandwidth, which can be as low as 50 kbps.

The technology automatically adjusts picture quality to ensure that video does not have to buffer or break. Users can increase video quality with a simple volume-like button, controlling their data costs themselves. Watching video content can cost as little as R5 per hour.

Tuluntulu works on 3G and 4G as well as Edge, an early generation mobile phone protocol prevalent in most of Africa. This gives often-neglected rural users access to the platform, and opens up significant opportunities for educators and entertainers to expand their reach across the continent.

Tuluntulu’s platform, Adaptive Real-time Internet Streaming Technology (ARTIST) has been in development for over six years. It is the product of a consortium of researchers and engineers from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the University of Cape Town (UCT), and East Coast Access (ECA), a BEE Internet service provider.

The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) supported the consortium by providing R14,5-million funding.

Media entrepreneur Pierre van der Hoven created the company Tuluntulu to take the platform to market. The purpose-built company holds the licence to ARTIST, which has been patented in several countries across the globe.

“My real excitement is that this technology will unlock video streaming as an industry in Africa. No licenses or new transmitter networks are required, opening the industry up to new players. Of the launch channels, only two are established broadcast TV channels.

“The rest are new players in the market who would not have had a chance on conventional television platforms. Tuluntulu will open the way for new voices, new content and new business models. The reach offered by this medium can also have a quick and significant impact in areas such as education,” says Tuluntulu CEO Pierre van der Hoven.