Monday, January 22, 2007

UK's DAB-IP Service Fails to Attract Subscribers

According to a report in the Guardian, the Mobile TV service based on DAB-IP technology, which was launched by BT Movio and Virgin in the UK last October, has attracted less than 10,000 subscribers. Despite a major marketing campaign starring Pamela Anderson, and a price cut on Virgin's "Lobster" handset, the service has not taken off with UK subscribers.

Among the reasons attributed to this failure are the availability of a single handset which supports the service (a rather bulky Windows Mobile device designed by HTC), and the relatively limited content offering (only 5 TV channels).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

CES Mobile TV Highlights - Part 2

I got a closer look at the LG VX9400 today at the MediaFLO booth. The video quality was very good, with no frame drops, and a surprising channel switching time of less than 2 seconds. The phone itself has a nice design, and is not bulky as you might expect from a phone that incorporates an additional receiver. The only issue is the external retractable antenna, which resembles the cellular phones we had 10 years ago. It seems fragile and looks completely out of place - hopefully newer models will feature an internal antenna.

I also saw the Samsung SCH-U620 MediaFLO phone at the Samsung booth. At first, it seemed that quality is much worse - frequent frame drops, and a channel switching time of 4-6 seconds. But, when I moved the handset a few meters to another location, the reception improved significantly, and I witnesses similar reception quality to the LG phone. The Samsung handset is also very nicely designed, althugh the screen doesn't rotate 90 degrees as with the LG model, and there is still the issue of the external retractable antenna.

The Modeo DVB-H phone, designed by HTC, was also demonstrated at the show, both at the Microtune stand in the IBM booth (local playback only), and at the HTC stand in the Microsoft booth (live TV reception). Quality was lower than the MediaFLO service, with frequent frame drops and a channel switching time of 6-8 seconds.

The demo of TV over Wimax, mentioned in my previous post, was shown at the Intel and Samsung booths. The demo shows streaming television at 1 megabits per second, including an integrated TV channel guide. It turned out that the demo, which is implemented using a USB dongle receiver by Samsung, does not use standard WiMax but actually WiBro, the pre-standard version which is deployed in Korea.

IPTV, HD content download from the Internet, home media distribution and wireless HDMI were also major topics at this year's show, but not for this blog...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

CES Mobile TV Highlights - Part 1

Yes, it's that time of year again, when 140,000 people gather in Las Vegas to see the latest consumer electronic products and services. The major announcement of the first day was the official launch of the MediaFLO Mobile TV service by Verizon in the USA. The printed edition of USA Today which I got at the airport on my way to CES featured this item on the front page. The service will go live at the end of March, with CBS, NBC, Fox, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. Verizon will offer phones from Samsung and LG to support the service.

I saw the LG 9400 MediaFLO phone at LG's booth today, and TV reception quality is very good. You can see pictures of the phone at gearlog. LG also had a DVB-H phone at their booth, but it wasn't receiving any TV signals...

Modeo, which plans to launch a competing mobile TV service in the USA using DVB-H technology, announced its "commercial quality mobile TV beta service", which will start in the first quarter of 2007 in New York. Modeo's service will feature TV content from FOX and The Discovery Channel, and radio content from Music Choice. The choice of handsets, however, will be limited to a single handset designed by HTC.

As if we didn't have enough mobile broadcast TV standards, Samsung announced its own mobile TV technology which is being trialed this week at CES. The technology, called Advanced-VSB (or A-VSB for short), is an enhancement of the existing VSB digital television standard used by ATSC, and enables broadcasters to transmit a mobile digital TV signal on the same frequency as they use for standard television broadcasting. And another emerging bearer for mobile TV is WiMax: MobiTV, NDS and RunCom are demonstrating mobile TV over WiMax at the show.

More on Mobile TV at CES tomorrow...