Analysis: Chips Are In Place For Mobile Television - InformationWeek

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12/16/2005
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Analysis: Chips Are In Place For Mobile Television

Still, competitive pressures and issues around which standards to use for transmission are damping enthusiasm a bit.

LONDON — 2005 has been a year of mixed signals and blurred pictures as we make our way towards delivering moving video to mobile handsets and lightweight computers. The technology has been touted as the next killer application and one that could drive the mobile phone industry with a whole new generation of baseband chips and modulators and smarter, larger and lower-power displays.

But it is now looking the industry must wait until 2007 for a major ramp of the market. Mobile TV has particular appeal to many industry players because it holds out the promise of taking the western hemisphere back towards competition on function and service rather than on price. Many companies are becoming tired of fighting for market share in a market where the margins have become wafer thin.

So taking prices on goods and services up and margins with them has great appeal. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is not turning out to be quite as straightforward as some had envisaged.

The fault certainly does not lie with the semiconductor supply chain, with established companies such as Philips Semiconductors, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Texas Instruments Inc. busy readying multi-standard digital TV receivers, and to some extent being overshadowed by announcements from a host of startups that are focusing on delivering either in-house developed integrated chipsets or just the baseband, with the tuner coming through partnerships with established suppliers.

The start-ups include such companies as France’s DiBcom, Israel-based Siano Mobile Silicon and Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) chip specialist Frontier Silicon Ltd., which is beginning to diversify into the mobile TV sector.

The year also started promisingly, with a special session on integrated chipsets and tuners for mobile TV applications at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, where the buzz was both audible and visible.

Yet a recent report from Sweden, a country where cell phone market penetration exceeds 110 percent and 3G networks already cover well over 90 percent of the geography, the launch of mobile TV is proving to be a political and regulatory nightmare.

It has got bogged down as broadcasters have lined up against mobile operators, and because of regulators facing huge pressure to revise — or not to revise — their plans for the digital TV spectrum. The country is typical of several others where the important decision on spectrum allocation for mobile TV broadcast has been delayed. Consequently, while there are trials-a-plenty, these countries are still scrambling to make an intelligent choice on the most appropriate technology to deploy.

A parallel dilemma is the choice between Digital Video Broadcast- Handheld (DVB-H) over a separate mobile-TV broadcast network, and Mobile Broadcast/Multicast Service (MBMS) over the 3G network.

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