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Tune in to key mobile TV trends, success factors

Posted: 03 Sep 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile TV trends challenges? product differentiation? multistandard transmission?

The increasing need for mobility and demand for connectivity have been major catalysts of increase in R&D investments and rapid advancements in IC technology.

This technology advancement will continue to fuel the unstoppable miniaturization of mobile devices, which will become the founding technology for TV program data on portable devices tagged as the next "killer application." Industry market analysts forecasted that more than 250 million people will be viewing TV on mobile devices such as cellphones, notebook PCs, PDAs, personal video players, cameras and automobiles by 2010.

Product differentiation
Consumer needs will ultimately govern and shape the development trends and challenges of chips targeted at mobile TV applications. Furthermore, during this early phase of development, the question is: What are the key success factors that will adequately create product differentiation?

The more successful products will require a fine balancing act between performance, power consumption, development cycle times, process technology and ultimately, cost. These factors will facilitate product differentiation to adequately deliver consumer satisfaction and increased market share.

Performance encompasses both the product feature set and associated quality. The key challenges will be the ability to deliver picture quality under varying conditions such as traveling at high speeds, and in obscure locations like tunnels and buildings. To compensate for a weak signal, the RF tuner must be able to recover very low signal strength data buried in noise. Hence, having a very good sensitivity level (-98dBm) is vital. Picture integrity is maintained by having a robust FEC technique and compensating for transmission errors.

For mobile TV applications, however, the mobility performance measured in Doppler hertz is a key factor. In principle, the higher the Doppler hertz value, the faster one can travel and still maintain data integrity. As one travels on a train, the signal frequency ahead of the train compresses (higher frequency), while the signal frequency behind the train is lower. Hence, depending where the transmission tower is located, the receiving device needs to compensate for this changing frequency phenomenon. A Doppler value in the 130Hz range with a transmission signal in the UHF band means that picture quality is still maintained even when traveling at speeds of over 160kph.

Power consumption directly impacts the operating lifetime of the battery power source and the program viewing time. The challenge of reducing power consumption is tackled on several fronts. First, the DVB-H uses a time-slicing technique, in which the system turns "on" during the time slot that carries the channel data that the consumer is watching and then turns "off" for all the other channel time slots. Time slicing alone can reduce the power consumption by almost 90 percent of the power used in receiving the required channel information.

Second, power management techniques and distribution of clock trees provide lower system clocks to functional blocks that don't require high clock speeds. Finally, the smaller the semiconductor lithography, the lower the operating voltages for the "core" along with other system functions.

'Feature creep'
As the demand for mobile TV increases, the competitive advantage will also come from reducing development cycle times. This improves time-to-market, which will allow companies to capitalize on an industry expected to have a relatively high replacement rate. Furthermore, companies need to develop a broader product mix to satisfy the changing consumer tastes across the varying demographic diversities.

Marketing strategies will seek product differentiation by driving "feature creep." This normally means an increase in chip form factor, which may not be favorable for mobile devices where space is limited. Thus, chips are on the path to miniaturization. This challenge is overcome by developing highly advanced CMOS technology, SoC or system-in-package.

Another trend and challenge today is the increasing complexity of managing and coordinating a hybrid of virtual "value chains" that comprises both internal and external company teams. Developing products through partner networks where a team of core competencies come together to create one product potentially allows you to develop a better system at lower cost, faster pace and reduced risks.

Fragmented regions
The major impact of multistandard transmission sources comes when you start fragmenting regions within Europe, China or North America. For example, hypothetically speaking, imagine traveling from one country that uses DVB-H across the boarder into another neighboring country that uses T-DMB. This will have several implications that come at a cost.

The major impact of multistandard transmission sources comes when you start fragmenting regions within Europe, China or North America. Semiconductor technology would need to support multistandard IC solutions.

First, this regional fragmentation of transmission standards will mean the setup and operation of two broadcasting networks that will most likely be transmitting the same content. This is so that either one of these networks will provide a seamless mobile TV transmission for the consumer without any disruption.

Second, semiconductor technology would need to support multistandard IC solutions. This means increased silicon size along with more complex software and firmware will handle the respective multiple protocol standards, resulting in overall increased system cost.

As regions accelerate the rollout of transmission networks in 2008, more people will have access to mobile TV programs. Mobile TV program data mix will have an increased variety of shorter programs tailored for mobile consumers. Moreover, as return paths are established, mobile consumers will be able to participate and provide instantaneous feedback to various program activities in real-time. Finally, mobile TV will be a must-have feature for product differentiation within a few years. In addition, with expected diminishing marginal costs for this technology, it will quickly become a standard in the same way that the camera function is adopted today.

- Giuseppe Calarco
VP of Tuner Systems Business Unit
Infineon Technologies Asia Pacific Pte Ltd

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