January 27, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Mobile TV gets on a roll

After a lackluster start, mobile TV is generating buzz again. Electronics makers, wireless operators and cell phone technology firms are betting big money that consumers on the go will soon clamor for TVs that they can tote in purses and pockets.

"The one message that came out loud and clear from our market research was that people who like TV like the idea of mobile TV," said Jeffrey Lorbeck, senior vice president at MediaFlow, the Qualcomm subsidiary that is deploying the company's high-speed wireless network in the U.S.

But the gulf between the idea and the reality of mobile TV--at least at this point in its development--still presents a few challenges to the consumer. Before TV fans can watch live NBA games or CNN broadcasts on their cell phones, they have to wade through a dizzying number of new video-enabled gadgets as well as special services and technologies, some with impenetrable acronyms like EV-DO and DVB-H.

Adding to the confusion are emerging competitive battles over signal transmission standards. Just this week, a group of companies that includes Intel, Nokia and Texas Instruments announced that they were joining forces to encourage open standards for TV broadcasts to mobile devices. The consortium, called the Mobile DTV Alliance, is promoting DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting--Handheld), a technology that bypasses mobile networks and broadcasts directly to millions of handsets simultaneously.

Transmission networks in development include broadcast systems being built by MediaFlo, a subsidiary of Qualcomm that uses a technology called FLO, and Modeo, a DVB-H proponent owned by Crown Castle International. These systems deliver TV programming on networks that overlay existing 3G wireless networks. Another TV transmission technology, TDtv, developed by IPWireless, uses existing 3G networks to "multicast" TV signals to subscribers.

Ultimately, of course, it will be up to the wireless providers to decide which technology is most cost-effective for them. But pressure also is mounting to make things more reliable and user-friendly for prospective customers. Research firm In-Stat estimates that 1.1 million people purchased mobile video content last year in the U.S. but expects that number to rise to 30 million in 2010.

Mobile TV handhelds

For years, stakeholders in mobile television have waited for mass adoption, but TV fans were turned off by the viewing quality of technologies such as streaming video, which, with its sometimes stalling, blurry images, tended to resemble a slide show more than full-motion TV.

The industry has since steadily improved image quality, and companies like MobiTV, which provides the mobile TV service for cell phone operators Sprint and Cingular, are now transmitting data at about 15 to 20 frames per second, according to Jason Taylor, a MobiTV spokesman. In comparison, broadcast TV transmits data at about 30 frames per second.

Emeryville, Calif.-based MobiTV, which has more than 500,000 subscribers, offers more than 30 channels that include live and on-demand content. Sprint customers pay $9.99 a month for MobiTV. Cingular MobiTV subscribers pay $10 a month to get unlimited viewing of 25 channels but must also sign up for a data package whose options range from 1MB of data usage for $4.99 per month to a $19.99 package for unlimited data usage.

A CNBC broadcast viewed this week on a Palm Treo 650 and carried via MobiTV appeared choppy only infrequently.

Data delivery rates will zoom once carriers move to high-speed networks, says Taylor. For instance, MobiTV's video content is "broadcast quality" when running over Sprint's wireless high-speed data service, or EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized), Taylor said.

Dutch electronics giant Royal Philips Electronics is preparing

See more CNET content tagged:
MobiTV, mobile TV, DVB-H, Qualcomm Inc., subscriber

10 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
go heads up
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.orange.fr/content/ge/high/lunettes-video/lunettes-video.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.orange.fr/content/ge/high/lunettes-video/lunettes-video.html</a>

and you don't need to understand french to understand what's happening :)
Posted by asperger (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Heads Up means awareness, not so with this product
After writing my response to the story, I checked out this link.

So, this product is basically glasses with a viewfinder in front of each eye. The glasses plug into your cell phone and receive (what I assume) is the video/audio feed. The frames have an ear piece which carry the sound to your ears.

This product is going to fail terribly because they don't understand the market.

You know why iPod video works? Because people with iPod video share it with others who don't have an iPod (yet).

It's about sharing, not keeping it to yourself.

You don't need to understand French to understand that.
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Link Flag
go heads up
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.orange.fr/content/ge/high/lunettes-video/lunettes-video.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.orange.fr/content/ge/high/lunettes-video/lunettes-video.html</a>

and you don't need to understand french to understand what's happening :)
Posted by asperger (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Heads Up means awareness, not so with this product
After writing my response to the story, I checked out this link.

So, this product is basically glasses with a viewfinder in front of each eye. The glasses plug into your cell phone and receive (what I assume) is the video/audio feed. The frames have an ear piece which carry the sound to your ears.

This product is going to fail terribly because they don't understand the market.

You know why iPod video works? Because people with iPod video share it with others who don't have an iPod (yet).

It's about sharing, not keeping it to yourself.

You don't need to understand French to understand that.
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Link Flag
Standards, and open standards
So, I work for this company in Northern California and we've been broadcasting to cell phones for the last 18 months. Yeah, 18 months. 15fps/FM stereo quality sound. Without the need for standards - just a media player on the phone.

We've broadcast cable news shows and cartoons, music videos, sports channels and more (with agreements of course) to demo the technology.

I hope that this finally takes off.

Although, I don't believe that the big upside will be with repurposing existing content to the new outlet.

Full length movies, although doable, don't play well on cell phones (although OnStar could benefit by offering pay per view to your car - think about it). Sports clips, music videos, news updates and such might be o.k., but still not big winners. The occaisional naked celebrity and blooper will be an infrequent hit.

The potential lies in content that extremely vertical. In order to accomplish this, you need to empower those extremely vertical niches to take advantage of the new medium. That mechanism is not being developed.
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Standards, and open standards
So, I work for this company in Northern California and we've been broadcasting to cell phones for the last 18 months. Yeah, 18 months. 15fps/FM stereo quality sound. Without the need for standards - just a media player on the phone.

We've broadcast cable news shows and cartoons, music videos, sports channels and more (with agreements of course) to demo the technology.

I hope that this finally takes off.

Although, I don't believe that the big upside will be with repurposing existing content to the new outlet.

Full length movies, although doable, don't play well on cell phones (although OnStar could benefit by offering pay per view to your car - think about it). Sports clips, music videos, news updates and such might be o.k., but still not big winners. The occaisional naked celebrity and blooper will be an infrequent hit.

The potential lies in content that extremely vertical. In order to accomplish this, you need to empower those extremely vertical niches to take advantage of the new medium. That mechanism is not being developed.
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mobile TV
Mobile tv in South Africa is still less talked about as compatible phones are not yet here eg Nokia N92. Does your research stretch this way? If so please keep me updated on local trends in SA as far as mobile tv is concerned. I am very excited!
Austin Moyo Snr.
Posted by Aussy0505 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mobile TV
Mobile tv in South Africa is still less talked about as compatible phones are not yet here eg Nokia N92. Does your research stretch this way? If so please keep me updated on local trends in SA as far as mobile tv is concerned. I am very excited!
Austin Moyo Snr.
Posted by Aussy0505 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.