Thursday, February 15, 2007

3GSM 2007 Mobile TV Highlights

As expected, 3GSM 2007 was packed with Mobile TV demonstrations everywhere - including handsets, chipsets, network infrastructure, enabling technologies and content.

On the handset side, the show's major announcement was probably the Nokia N77 DVB-H handset. As rumored just before the show, this is a mid-range handset, which is targeted at initial DVB-H deployments in Vietnam, Italy and Finland. I took a look at the video quality, and it was quite good at 15 frames per second. However, every minute or two there was an occasional error in the stream (picture freezes or breaks into blocks). The demonstrator at the N77 stand in the Nokia booth claimed that this was due to the "crowded network at the show", which seems highly unlikely since DVB-H is a broadcast network... The channel switching time was also quite long, at 4-6 seconds. The long switching time was also apparent in other DVB-H demos at the show, and I also noticed this issue in CES demos last month, which leads to the conclusion that this is probably an inherent issue with current DVB-H implementations. The Nokia representative told me that the handset will cost 370 Euros without subsidies, and has a 5 hour TV viewing time, and 7.5 days standby time.

Another DVB-H handset was demonstrated by Sagem. Sagem is not a top-tier mobile handset vendor, but their myMobileTV handset is very nicely designed, and features an innovative auto-rotate feature which rotates and expands the image based on the direction in which the device is being held, using an acceleration sensor. In this demo I also witnessed the long channel switching time, and the occasional frame error every 1-2 minutes. The Sagem demonstrator came up with another original excuse for this, claiming that it was due to a low battery on the device (although the device was connected to a power supply and charging...). Another interesting handset demonstrated at the show was the Samsung SGH-F510, a slim DVB-H phone which blends well with the company's "thin is in" design.

Qualcomm showed the MediaFLO handsets which will launch with Verizon's service at the end of this quarter, the Samsung SCH-U620 and the LG VX9400. Qualcomm also showed a prototype handset of its own design, which is used mainly for testing the service. Judging by the video quality, it seems that MediaFLO currently has the edge: Frame rate is about 20-25 frames per second, and channel switching time is 2 seconds. MediaFLO also had a larger variety of channels at the show: 20 TV channels vs. only 9 channels which were available on the SIDSA DVB-H demo network at the show.

Other vendors were showing unicast live TV over cellular networks, circuit-switched streaming (using 3G video telephony for content delivery), and TV interactivity solutions. Compared to last year's show, 3GSM 2007 demonstrated the maturity of mobile TV technology and the range of available handsets, driven by commercially deployed services. However, subscriber numbers for paid mobile broadcast TV services in Europe remain low, both for DVB-H and for DAB-IP, so the question of return on investment still remains.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

3 Italia Signed Up 300,00 Mobile TV Subscribers in 2006

Variety International reports that 3 Italia has signed up more than 300,000 subscribers to its DVB-H mobile TV service, but overall growth is occurring at a slower-than-expected rate. 3 expected to reach 500,000 subscribers by the end of 2006, but did not reach its target despite a surge in subscribers during the run up to Christmas, and 3 Italia's round-the-clock coverage of "Big Brother."

3 Italia is planning to offer a new phone, with a 4.3 inch screen, in hope of attracting more subscribers to its service. The company will also export its knowledge to other countries, starting with a 3-month trial of DVB-H with Malaysia's Maxis Communication.

3GSM 2007 Mobile TV Preview

The industry is preparing for this year's 3GSM conference in Barcelona, which will take place from Monday 12/2 until Thursday 15/2. According to a poll by EETimes Europe, mobile TV will be the key topic at 3GSM this year, and indeed several companies are preparing to showcase their mobile TV products at the show. These demonstrations will be assisted by a 3GSM DVB-H network operated by Spanish mobile TV technology provider SISDA and local operator Albertis telecom. The network will broadcast 10 mobile TV channels, including MTV, CNBC, CNN and some Spanish TV channels. One of the channels will be 3GSM TV, which broadcasts live news and content directly from the show.

Some of the other demonstrations at the show:

* According to sources quoted by Reuters, Nokia is planning to reveal a mid-range N-Series mobile phone called N77, capable of receiving DVB-H broadcasts. The phone is supposed to be in the 200-300 Euro range, as opposed to Nokia's N-92 DVB-H handset which currently costs over 600 Euros.

* Chinese handset vendor ZTE will demonstrate its own "N-Series" DVB-H mobile phone, the N7100, which is based on Siano's SMS1000 mobile TV receiver chipset. The N7100 handset, which features HSDPA high-speed cellular connectivity, will be distributed in Italy by Telecom Italia Mobile in the next few weeks.

* Mobile TV chip vendor Frontier Silicon and mobile TV software vendor S3 will demonstrate a multi-mode reference design for mobile TV based on Frontier Silicon's FS1030 "Paradiso" moible TV receiver which supports DVB-H, DVB-T, T-DMB and DAB-IP; and on S3's "onHandTV" multi-standard mobile TV client software.

* NEC and Telegent systems will demonstrate a high-definition, low-power mobile TV platform running on NEC's application processor, which allows up to four and a half hours of viewing time.

* TI, Orange and Viaccess will demonsrate content and access protection for mobile TV services, utlizing TI’s M-Shield security framework, which is integrated into the OMAP application processor platform.

* NXP software (formerly Philips Software) will demonstrate a full mobile TV software solution running on TI's OMAPV1030 baseband application processor.

* Ericsson will demonstrate mobile TV using MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service), following a successful MBMS trial conducted in 2006. Ericsson plans commercial rollout of MBMS services in 2008.

I'm off to Barcelona tonight, and will do my best to continue and provide mobile TV coverage from the show itself.