A new Silicon Valley startup is tackling a problem that it believes is responsible for a whole lot more abandoned shopping carts and frustrated users than most people realize: slow mobile download speeds.
PacketZoom, Inc. believes it has a better way to make smart phone connections zippier. Today it introduced what it calls a “mobile speed as a service” toolkit that it says makes it drag-and-drop easy for developers to boost speeds up to tenfold. It also has investors and an assortment of mostly obscure customers to back up its claims.
PacketZoom says the villain in slow mobile performance is Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), a nearly 40-year-old networking standard that underlies nearly all Internet transmissions. TCP was invented to ensure reliable delivery of data over an Internet Protocol (IP) network, but it assumed that the client and host enjoyed a relatively stable connection.
That isn’t the case anymore, of course. Mobile devices are constantly being handed off from one network to another, and each network has different speeds and operating characteristics. “All of these events are seen by the device as a broken connection, so TCP attempts to re-connect every time,” said PacketZoom CEO and Founder Chetan Ahuja.
That means it constantly performs handshakes, look-ups and re-transmissions in order to make sure packets arrive. These housekeeping chores may minimize data loss, but they also introduce delay that slows performance. For example, downloading a single 300kB photo takes at least seven TCP round-trips, according to PacketZoom COO John Joseph.
PackZoom aims to all but eliminate all that handshaking. It does this by establishing a connection between applications based upon the device rather than an IP address. The protocol always knows a device’s location, tracks dead zones and recognizes packet drops in a way that is more appropriate to the unique flakiness of mobile communications. “Our server and client know that if you go to a different subnet, it’s still the same device,” Ahuja said. “We create our own ID at the app level.”
The technology is based upon User Datagram Protocol (UDP), another core part of the IP stack that is widely used in voice over Internet protocol applications in which performance is of primary concern.
PacketZoom says developers need not rework their apps in order to gain the performance advantages of its toolkit. They merely drag-and-drop the software development kit inside the app. “The app is immediately faster and it’s faster for all users,” Ahuja said.
Freemium pricing is based upon daily active users, with free support for up to 2,500 users and custom pricing for larger capacities. PacketZoom is backed by investors including First Round Capital, Baseline, Founders Collective and Tandem Capital.