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Industry Giants Align to Create a Video Compression Alternative to HEVC

September 14, 2015

Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix have come together to form The Alliance for Open Media in a move to produce a royalty free video codec that will be a more affordable option than the current next-generation video codec known as H.265.

Cisco’s Jonathan Rosenberg in a conversation with me Friday explained that the companies came together after becoming frustrated with the licensing situation that they are all facing with the H.265 video codec—also known as HEVC.

H.264 is the current generation of video codec and is in wide use across the Internet. The new H.265 video codec uses half the bandwidth for the same quality or can deliver twice the quality on the same bandwidth. The alliance is shooting to be on par with that. And the alliance expects to leverage Cisco’s Thor open source video codec technology as well as efforts Google has been working on in this vein to help make that happen.

Image via Shutterstock

There are already two patent holding companies, each with its own licensing terms, associated with H.265, he said. And there are additional known patent holders that aren’t yet represented in either licensing pool that could possibly decide to collect fees in the future, he added. That makes for a confusing and costly licensing situation for videoconferencing and video streaming companies like the ones represented in The Alliance for Open Media, Rosenberg said.

According the Rosenberg, the licensing costs associated with H.265 are sixteen times that of its predecessor H.264. And while frequent-use licensees can elect to pay a one-time annual fee as opposed to a 10-cent per-use fee for H.264, he explained, there’s no one-time fee option with H.265, meaning its $1.70 per unit costs add up quickly.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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