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Battle brews in Korea mobile TV market

Posted: 05 Oct 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile tv? wireless? kft? qualcomm? korea?

A possible standards battle is brewing between rival operators in Korea's fledging but advanced mobile TV market.

KFT, the second largest wireless operator in Korea, is reportedly evaluating Qualcomm Inc.'s MediaFlo mobile-TV format - a move that raises questions about KFT's efforts with the rival DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcast) technology, according to a report from The Korea Times.

The report also indicated that Qualcomm's MediaFlo technology could get shut out of the Korean market. Neither Qualcomm or KFT have requested the required spectrum for MediaFlo in Korea and the nation's wireless bandwidth is running at capacity, according to the report.

A spokesman for KFT declined to comment, but the report speculated that the Korean carrier is looking for an alternative technology to lessen its dependence on rival operator SK Telecom.

Last year, KTF and Korea's TU Media raised eyebrows by agreeing to launch a mobile TV service based on satellite DMB. TU Media also runs the satellite DMB service for its parent company, rival SK Telecom, Korea's largest wireless operator.

There may be a need to support several formats in the mobile TV market. Presently, there are three basic and incompatible formats vying for dominance in the worldwide mobile TV market: DMB; DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld), a mobile version of terrestrial digital TV standard; and MediaFLO, a proprietary format developed by Qualcomm.

Last year, SK Telecom claimed that it launched the world's first satellite for mobile DMB services. The satellite, called Araeahanbyul, last year blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SK Telecom, along with TU Media, launched DBM services in Korea in May of this year. Satellite DMB allows subscribers to access all multimedia broadcast channels at any time and anywhere, via special receivers in mobile handsets and automobiles. For a $13 monthly fee, SK Telecom offers a dozen TV channels and 13 music stations on a mobile device.

Rival KFT rolled out its DBM service last month. And not to be outdone, a Korean consortium is also deploying a terrestrial DMB service, which is still struggling to get off the ground. In March, the Korea Broadcasting Corp. selected six operators for the service: KBS, MBC, SBS, YTN, CBS and a consortium of small participants.

Terrestrial DMB only boasts 20,000 subscribers in Korea. Still, the nation is one of the early leaders in deploying mobile TV services, said Harry Kim, senior manager of marketing at Core Logic Inc. (Seoul), a fabless supplier of camera and mobile TV chips. "Korea is one of the early adopters of technology," Kim said.

Mobile TV will take off in some but not all worldwide markets, he said. "It depends on where you deploy it," he said in an interview.

Two Korean fabless semiconductor makersCore Logic and MTekvision Co. Ltdare readying chips that support DMB and related services.

By year's end, Core Logic said it plans to debut a new version of its Multimedia Application Processor (MAP) that supports DBM and DVB. The company's current MAP is a 32-bit, ARM-based device that consists of a JPEG and MPEG-4 codec. It supports mega-pixel digital photo resolution, video playback, MP3 and other functions.

MTekvision will also devise a new chip that will support DBM, according to the company. The chip is based on its MV332 Audio Mobile Camera device.

Both fabless companies are expected to ship the devices to Korean handset makers LG Telecom, Samsung and others.

-Mark LaPedus

EE Times

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