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Mobile TV leaves handset operators behind

Posted: 17 Sep 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile TV? handset operator? digital TV? Wi-Fi?

Forget Verizon, ignore AT&T. Disregard cell phone operators!

This is the scorched-operator attitude that appears to be the prevalent business model among mobile TV technology suppliers, at least if trends visible at the International Broadcast Conference 2008 are an accurate indication.

A host of mobile TV chip companies demonstrated devices that are designed to turn popular consumer devices such as the Apple's iPod, Sony's PlayStation 3 and portable GPS navigation units into terrestrial digital TV receivers.

All it takes to enable mobile TV on popular consumer products is a USB accessory or a Wi-Fi equipped small mobile broadcast device, integrated with a DTV tuner, demodulator and connectivity interface, regardless a digital TV standard it uses.

"Several years ago when we started, we wouldn't have been able to attract venture capitalists' money unless we had plans to collaborate with cellular operators," said Alon Ironi, CEO of Siano Mobile Silicon.

Venture capitals generally love big-name operators and they like proposals of products around which services can be wrapped. But that was then, and it is now.

"Things have changed." said Ironi. Armed with a number of design wins ranging from portable media players to GPS, Siano today is demonstrating that his company's mobile TV chip business can stand on its own in the consumer electronics market " with or without operators' plays.

DTV on iPod
DiBcom is another chip vendor seeking business independent of carriers, who tend to dictate types of handsets and kinds of services they promote.

Azzedine Boubguira, VP of marketing and business development at DiBcom, showed off at his company's booth a prototype of PacketVideo-created small mobile broadcast receiver called Telly.

Telly!small enough to fit in a shirt pocket!can wirelessly transmit digital TV broadcast programs to any device equipped with a Wi-Fi connection.

In the demonstration, Telly turned Apple's iPod into a mobile TV device playing live BBC broadcast programs!by simply wirelessly linking it to the iPod.

The iPod comes with Wi-Fi capability, but without Telly, it features no mobile TV capabilities. PacketVideo, a San Diego-based multimedia software company, has pioneered the mobile industry's video efforts over the last ten years. DiBcom also demonstrated Sony's new DTV receiver accessory for PlayStation 3. The unit, launched on the European market, turns the game console into a DVB-T-based digital TV receiver by connecting the accessory unit to the console via a USB cable.

Siano's Ironi acknowledged that there are mobile TV technology companies!whether software or hardware suppliers!yet to recover from "a post-traumatic syndrome" after failures of high-profile mobile TV trials, such as the ones by Modeo in the United States and BT Movio in the United Kingdom.

Both entities ended up folding operations. "We can analyze this to deathbut our ultimate goal, as a chip vendor, is to make digital TV as a regular function of any portable devices," said Ironi. "Very few consumers today use Bluetooth or camera functions in their cellphones. But they are already there."

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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