Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Highlights of the IMA Mobile TV Conference

The Israeli Mobile Association (IMA) held a conference yesterday dedicated to the topic of Mobile TV technologies and services. The conference featured an impressive array of speakers from technology companies and mobile operators in Israel and abroad, who provided useful insights into the current mobile TV market. Below are some highlights from the conference.

Martin Richartz, Senior Technology Manager at Vodafone Group R&D, described the "mobile broadcast TV showdown" which will take place in Germany during the FIFA world cup next month. The games will be broadcast using a DVB-H network, operated by a consortium of all 4 German MNOs, and using a T-DMB network, operated by German start-up MFD. Mr Richartz urged the industry to converge on a bearer-agnostic IP service layer, which will ride on top of MBMS, DVB-H and eDAB, and enable service providers and content creators to roll out global services.

Guy Bauman, VP Business Development at Pelephone, gave an operator's view on mobile TV services. He described the Pelephone Zoom TV portal, which mixes video download, on-demand streaming and 21 live TV channels. Pelphone has found that prime time distribution in cellular TV is similar to regular TV, and that most users prefer music (31%), entertainment (29%), sports (11%) and news (10%).

Raimo Malila of Nokia Multimedia discussed the current fragmentation within the DVB-H standard between the DVB-CBMS and the OMA BCAST working group, especially on the issues of Electronic Service Guide (ESG) and content protection (conditional access and DRM).
Mr. Malila also described the possible business models for mobile broadcast TV, which are likely to be lead either by the broadcasters or the mobile operators. At the end of his speech, Mr. Malila presented a business case study for the roll out of a DVB-H network in Israel, claiming that the build-out cost to cover 95% of the population with in-door reception within 3 years would be 12.5M Euros, and the annual operating cost would be about 2-3M Euros per year.

Menno Bangma, Multimedia Services Consultant at TNO, described interative mobile services as a way to "push the portal" to the end-user, since they enable cross selling of content while watching TV, and create attractive opportunities for advertisers, such as impulse response, user feedback and user profile.

The conference concluded with an interesting panel session which gave some insights into the current challenges and roadmap for mobile TV services. The panel mentioned the following main constraints for the roll out of mobile TV services:
* Regulation and frequency aspects
* Standards fragmentation
* Echosystem (business model)
* Cheap terminals and multi-standard terminals (although there is a trade off between the two)

When asked about the best case scenario for mobile TV adoption, most panel participants replied that initial commercial services will be available within 18 months, and mass-market adoption is expected around 2008-2009.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Qualcomm Introduces Multi-Standard Mobile TV Receiver

Qualcomm announced today that it is developing a mobile broadcast TV receiver chip that will support DVB-H, ISDB-T and MediaFlo. Samples of the chip, called UBM (Universal Broadcast Modem), will be available in the first quarter of 2007.

This is the first announcement of a mobile TV receiver chip that will support 3 completely different standards. Siano Mobile Silicon announced yesterday at Computex Taiwan that its SMS1000 mobile TV receiver chipset is the world's first solution which supports DVB-T, DVB-H, T-DMB and DAB-IP, and is already in production. Frontier Silicon, which currently has DAB and T-DMB chips available, announced that its Paradiso FS1030 chip will support both T-DMB and DVB-H, but did not announce when it will be available. TI, on the other hand, has two separate versions of its Hollywood mobile TV receiver: DTV 1000 for DVB-H, and DTV 1001 for ISDB-T.

The variety of standards for mobile TV seems like a market reality, with no clear winner in the next few years. While some standards are geographically focused (such as ISDB-T in Japan and S-DMB in Korea), others will be implemented globably, and in some cases two or more standards will be implemented in a single country. For example, the UK will have both DAB-IP and DVB-H, Germany will have both DVB-H and T-DMB, and the USA will have both DVB-H and MediaFlo. The global fragmentation of mobile TV standards will ultimately lead to strong demand for multi-standard mobile TV receiver chipsets.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

First MediaFlo Trial in Europe

UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB announced yesterday that it plans to evaluate Qulacomm's MediaFlo mobile TV technology in a trial that will take place later this year in the UK. The trial will be conducted in the Cambridge area using the UHF spectrum, and will feature 10 TV channels which will be received by about 100 form-factor mobile handsets supplied by Qualcomm.