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Mobile TV marches on

Posted: 18 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile TV? CMOS? on-chip memory? cameras? vehicles?

There has been renewed hype for mobile TV in Europe and China. Several organizations are bidding to be selected as the national standard for China. The Olympics has been attracting a great deal of interest from both domestic and foreign companies to invest, and thus fast-tracked semiconductor development in supporting these new standards. This is almost a mirrored scenario of what happened in Europe prior to the 2006 World Cup, an exhilarating experience for all those involved in mobile TV technology. At that time, several standards where bidding for dominance, particularly the Korean-based D-TMB and European-based DVB-H. However, during a hype period, it is easy to overlook the costs of establishing and maintaining a network.

Following the 2006 World Cup, these costs were calculated and the clear realization was that there can only be one standard to improve the chances of achieving the required return on investment. This scenario is again unfolding in China. Expect that after the Olympic Games, a standard will emerge to provide mobile TV services for China.

State of adoption
Japan is an early adopter and has fully embraced mobile TV with penetration rates for mobile phones exceeding 40 percent. It is expected to reach more than 60-percent penetration rate in a few years. Japan uses its own home-developed standard, ISDB-T. The impressive penetration rate is mainly due to the availability of "free-to-air" programs.

Korea is also an early adopter with similar characteristics as Japan. There has been consolidation within the European community, Asian and African countries, along with North America, toward the adoption and deployment of the DVB-H standard. In the interim period, while investments on infrastructure, content and required business models are being developed for mobile TV, it seems that some mobile phone manufacturers can't wait any longer. We are seeing the emergence of mobile devices that support traditional and long established terrestrial DTV standards such as DVB-T. The major drawback using this standard is that power consumption is many times higher than DVB-H, but this does not seem to be a showstopper. Power consumption directly impacts the battery and ultimately, program viewing time.

DVB-H uses a "time-slicing" technique, where the system only turns "on" during the time slot that carries the required channel data and then turns "off" for all the other channel time slots. By implementing this technique, the power consumption is cut by almost 90 percent. However, "free to air" TV channel in DVB-T is being transmitted, so some companies are adding this feature to their handsets. This serves as a differentiator of high- to mid-range mobile devices.

Deployment of DVB-T for mobile TV has started in Europe, China and parts of Asia despite the higher power consumption. And a segment that is starting to take traction is in-car mobile TV. This application requires multiple antennas to support diversity in ensuring consistently a good picture quality. Momentum is coming from Japan and Korea, with interest starting to emerge in China, U.S. and Europe.

Infineon's tuner solutions drive mobile TV toward lower system costs and power consumption.

Making a difference
Several key success factors are available, allowing product differentiation. The leading players need to carefully manage the trade-off between die-size, performance, power consumption, development cycle times and optimization of system firmware while maintaining a competitive cost position. Moreover, the marketing mix will need to be continuously reviewed and the value offering through the delivery of system platform solutions.

This hybrid mix of hardware and firmware needs to be integrated in a module ready for plug and play. It is expected that the initial market demand will require modules. However, as the market matures and volume increases, the technology will migrate onto the PCB. The technology that will most likely fulfill most of these requirements will be the 40nm CMOS process. Some companies will have the capability to develop a monolithic IC that integrates the digital demodulator IP's, the required on-chip memory and the multistandard RF. However, a system in package approach could also be competitive.

It is expected that almost 250 million people will be viewing TV programs on mobile devices such as mobile phones, PCs, PDAs, personal video players and cameras, and in vehicles by 2011. The ever-increasing mobile community will embrace mobile TV not only for entertainment, but also to be in continuous touch with world news and financial data.

Moreover, as network return paths are established, consumers will be able to join as virtual participants in auctions, game shows etc. The marginal costs for mobile TV technology in the mobile device's electronics system will diminish quickly, and it will become a basic feature just like the camera function is today for most mid- to high-end phones.

- Giuseppe Calarco
VP and General Manager
Tuner Systems and TV Receivers
Infineon Technologies Asia Pacific Pte Ltd

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