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6/6/2006
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Italians Will Watch World Cup On Handsets

Subscribers will be able to watch all 64 football matches in their entirety.

PARIS — With the opening of the World Cup soccer tournament this week (June 9), Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary 3 Italia is the first European service provider offering commercial mobile TV broadcasts of matches.

Subscribers will be able to watch all 64 FIFA World Cup matches in their entirety rather than short video clips. They can be viewed on mobile handsets supplied by LG Electronics and Samsung that comply with with the DVB-H standard.

While 3 Italia is a 3G cellular network operator, it chose to build a separate new mobile broadcast TV network—based on the DVB-H spec—to offer mobile TV services.

As many as 30 DVB-H trials are said to be going on now in Europe, including some in which users are receiving World Cup games on their handsets. A few 3G network operators are also planning to show snippets of matches via their UMTS network. However, a 3 Italia spokesman said, "If you want to watch an entire game of any of the 64 matches, you can only do it with us and on a DVB-H network."

Despite the hype about single-chip mobile TV solutions touted by companies like Texas Instruments, the early design winners for commercial DVB-H handsets turned out to be much smaller silicon vendors armed with proven, specialized chips. These include Microtune (Plano, Texas) and DiBcom (Palaiseau, France).

LG mobile handsets, dubbed LG U900, incorporate Microtune's DVB-H TV tuner and DiBcom's DVB-H demodulator IC to receive mobile TV services. A multimedia chip from Renesas is used to decode the digital mobile TV streams compressed in H.264 video and AAC+ audio.

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