Mobile TV: Six Flavors

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Sprint Nextel announced its plans for large scale WiMAX deployments today at CES. Sprint partners are previewing WiMAX mobile devices during the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show while Sprint TV service partnerMobiTV demonstrates WiMAX mobile TV.

ABI Research expects half a billion mobile video subscribers by 2011. The $50 million industry (in 2005) is expected to grow to several hundred billion dollars by 2011. ABI believes advertising revenues from broadcast mobile video will dwarf subscription revenues from these services.

Sprint’s WiMAX MobiTV can insert advertising related to video content. For example, while a user is watching one of MobiTV’s music videos channels, a button will appear alongside the video allowing the user to purchase a ring-tone, wallpaper or concert tickets for the corresponding artist.

Sprint Nextel intends to launch Mobile WiMAX broadband services in initial markets, this year with at least 100 million people under their umbrella by year-end 2008. Sprint’s mobile WiMAX plans include:

  • The Chicago and Washington D.C. areas have been chosen as initial WiMAX service areas with additional markets to be identified based on market-readiness.
  • Nokia was named a key infrastructure and consumer electronic device supplier;
  • Motorola announced a strategic initiative to develop mobile WiMAX chipsets for use in Motorola’s next-generation WiMAX devices;
  • Samsung has committed to delivering six WiMAX-capable devices (including Ultra mobile PCs and personal media players); Samsung also plans to enter the WiMAX chipset business;
  • Intel completed the design of a single-chip, multi-band WiMAX/WiFi chipset that it will sample in card and module forms in late 2007;
  • LG Electronics Inc. intends to develop an infotainment device that would work on the Sprint Nextel WiMAX network;

Motorola will deploy Sprint’s WiMAX infrastructure to at least 1,000 sites in the greater Chicago area this year. Initial service expected to begin late in 2007 with a commercial launch in the first half of 2008. WiMAX subscriber devices include the CPEi200 and CPEi400 as well as WiMAX PC cards.

The intent is to wirelessly enable the multitude of stand-alone consumer electronic devices that currently lack connectivity or Internet access. Sprint says it hopes to make “4G broadband mobility” pervasive and indispensable for customers.

At CES Samsung is showing off handheld TVs tuning into A-VSB on bus tours around Vegas, picking up a signal from a local TV station.

The technology isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, notes Infoworld. The first tests were conducted in November and more tests are planned for early this year. Samsung (which has a piece of ATSC royalities), hopes to complete a spec by the first half of 2007.

A-SVB technology is a hardened, but largely duplicative of the existing 8-VSB modulated digital broadcast, says C/Net.

Samsung has teamed with Sinclair Broadcast Group to promote the standard to the ATSC and has begun formal tests of A-VSB, said John Godfrey, VP of government and public affairs for Samsung Information Systems America. Broadcasters transmit a supplementary reference sequence (SRS), or reference, signal. Current-generation HDTVs would ignore the signal, but an SRS-equipped receiver would look for the signal and lock onto it continuously. At its highest setting, the SRS signal would use 2-3Mbps of the 19.4Mbps of bandwidth allocated to DTV stations.

If an HD station pushes “Turbo Coding” to 4Mbps for “big-screen” mobile applications, and sets aside the maximum 3Mbps for the SRS signal, only 12.4Mbps would be available for the station’s main HD program. At that data rate, “It’s still HD but a bit of a challenge,” Godfrey admitted.

Some industry observers believe the royalty-sharing ATSC partners rejected the more rugged COFDM modulation, now adopted by Europe and much of the rest of the world in the DVB digital standard (and DVB-H), in part because there was no money in it for them. The A-VSB system would allow the ATSC partners to maintain their same “kickback” on each ATSC set.

Thank you, Dick Wiley. You played broadcasters like a virtuoso— and got away clean.

Meanwhile, Crown Castle announced today that its subsidiary, Modeo, has launched a live, commercial quality mobile TV beta service in New York City after more than three years of development. Harris developed the 1670 MHz DVB-H transmitter, featuring proprietary convection-cooled Technology. The Cool Play 1670 transmitter has power outputs from 50 to 400 watts, in single output and diversity transmitter configurations.

The Modeo beta service includes live video from Fox News, Discovery Channel and others, as well as streaming audio content from Music Choice, to Modeo Mobile TV Smartphones (above).

Modeo is delivering live broadcast signals from the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES. Microsoft and HTC, the developer and manufacturer of Modeo’s Smartphone, will showcase the device. Crown Castle owns, operates and manages over 11,500 and over 1,300 wireless communication sites in the US and Australia, respectively.

Verizon Wireless, of course, announced its planned mobile TV service, which runs Qualcomm’s proprietary MediaFLO this week at CES. Verizon Wireless did not disclose what it will charge for the service, but did unveil two phones, the Samsung SCH-u620 and LG VX9400 for the service as well as the offering’s initial channel lineup. MediaFlo began transmitting on Friday, January 5th, in Portland on channel 55 (716-722 MHz), at 50,000 Watts ERP.

Yet to appear are Sprint’s VUE mobile TV service which has kicked off in Kansas City and Las Vegas, according to Engadget (also using MediaFLO). A swiveling Samsung SPH-M250 plays it.

And then there’s Aloha Partner’s HiWire, using VHF channels 54 and 59. HiWire uses two channels and the DVB-H standard. Where is it? Not on the show floor, apparently. Maybe carriers are skeptical that Townsend is serious about mobile TV. The spectrum could be worth more for 2-way communications. Perhaps mobile broadcasters are concerned they’ll just be a placeholder.

Townsend’s two channels of DVB-H on the VHF band would be sweet — but nationwide 2-way broadband wireless might be sweeter.

So what have we got? (1) MediaFLO, (2) Modeo and (3) HiWire (using Qualcomm and DVB-H technology, respectively). Now add; (4) WiMAX television (with MobiTV) and (5) Samsung’s mobile broadcast system (using their own A-VSB standard). That’s five competitors to cellular delivery. So far.

Will datacasting be the Next Big Thing?

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, January 8th, 2007 at 1:33 pm .

3 thoughts on “Mobile TV: Six Flavors

Leave a Reply