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Optimism stirs in mobile TV market

Posted: 19 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile TV? DVB-H? CMMB?

Calling 2007 "a rock-bottom year" for mobile TV, DiBcom CEO Yannick Levy said he is hoping that things will start to get a little better this year.

Levy, speaking at last week's Mobile World Congress, took comfort in knowing that his company's turbulent experience with the mobile TV market appears to be following the "hype curve," a well-known theory published by the Gartner group a few years ago.

But then, where is the good news? What could possibly pull companies like DiBcom up from the bottom of the hype curve?

For DiBcom, the answer is two Craig McCaw-backed companies: Clearwire Corp. and ICO Global Communications, who have teamed up for a new mobile TV trial, scheduled to start next month, by using satellites to broadcast directly to mobile devices in the United States.

The satellite-based mobile TV technology in question is called Digital Video Broadcasting from Satellite to Handhelds (DVB-SH), designed to complement DVB-H in higher frequency bands, such as the S-band.

The technology standard, approved as the DVB Group's standard a year ago, was developed to offer hybrid satellite/terrestrial mobile TV solutions for nationwide coverage on mobile phones, portable and vehicular devices, according to DiBcom.

Hope in Olympics
And for Sinao Mobile Silicon, another leading mobile TV chip vendor, the answer is the Beijing Olympics.

China is planning to launch mobile TV, coinciding with the event. The new service is based on a China government-picked standard called China Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting (CMMB). CMMB is based on homegrown technology known as STiMi (short for satellite and terrestrial interactive multiservice infrastructure).

Siano's CEO Alon Ironi said his company is preparing to launch a STiMi-based chip "around May."

Two months ago, Siano announced in China that it has signed a collaboration agreement with CMB Satellite, the Hong Kong-based affiliate of EchoStar Communications Corp., and Huaqi, a manufacturer of consumer multimedia products in China branded "aigo" to provide solutions for China's upcoming mobile TV service.

As both DVB-SH and STiMi target hybrid satellite/terrestrial mobile TV services, the two specs are said to be similar. While Siano is also planning to roll out DVB-SH solutions, DiBcom also noted its plans for China's STiMi.

While DiBcom and Siano are the top two DVB-H chip suppliers designed into mobile TV-capable handsets sold in Italy, they are both casting much broader nets for their potential market.

TV in cars
For DiBcom, this is the in-car business. Although "the U.S. market has not even realized the benefits of mobile TV," Levy said they will understand the value of connecting TV to GPS screen in a car, for example. "Or, using TV in a car for tailgating parties before football games," he said.

Indeed, ICO reportedly said that with mobile TV, it is not looking to compete in the mobile phone market, at least initially. The company believes that there will be a real demand for the seven- or eight-inch screen in a vehicle.

Siano's next big thing, it hopes, is the Intel Corp.- promoted Mobile Internet Device (MID). Intel has picked Siano's mobile TV chip as a part of the MID reference design.

Ironi said, "Until now, the embedded systems and PCs have lived in two separate spaces." But with MID, if successful, the line between the two will blur. "For us, that means a new revenue stream, he added.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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