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Cellphone TV: The next revolution
Amit Khanna | October 19, 2005
At a seminar on content protection, a presentation by Dutch company Irdeto suddenly brought into focus how near we are to mobile TV. Some of you might have watched streaming video images, including excerpts from TV channels, movies and sporting events, on your cellphones.
Reliance launched these services more than two years ago and now other service providers are offering these either as downloads or video streams.
But the experience is not as good as a true videocast should be. This is changing rapidly as higher bandwidth and better compression is making real-time video easy to access on next-generation networks. Even as the so-called 3G service is being launched, it is apparent that mobile TV is becoming a much-loved application.
According to one estimate, there will be over 250 million mobile TV viewers worldwide by 2010. Korea is perhaps the first country where users with special cellphones have access to 11 TV channels, 25 radio channels and three data channels through a technology called DMB (digital multimedia broadcast), a modified version of DAB (digital audio broadcast), which uses a KU-band satellite transponder with a frequency of 13.8Ghz.
There is some action in Europe, too, where an experiment jointly undertaken by Nokia and the Murdoch-controlled BskyB is beaming selected programming on special handsets equipped for receiving satellite broadcasts.
Unfortunately, there are still several competing technologies for mobile TV delivery. In the US, it's likely that both the open standard DVB-H (digital video broadcasting-handsets) and a proprietary system called MediaFlo, designed by Qualcomm, will be used.
In Japan, segments within the existing ISDB-T (integrated services digital broadcasting-terrestrial) system carry the data, while in Europe both DVB-H and DAB related services are likely.
Interestingly, the first commercial deployment in Europe will be in Germany during next year's football world cup where Samsung is working with DVB-H.
Spectrum availability is the main factor holding DVB-H back. Until analogue television services are switched off very little spectrum will be made available for DVB-H and even then, the increasing popularity of HDTV might mean that DVB-H gets a much lower priority.
The situation in countries such as India may be different as unused TV frequencies, especially at ultra high frequency (or, UHF), is more readily available.
Regardless of all these arguments, the fact is that the technology to provide mobile TV to handsets is available now. These one-to-many technologies will allow much cheaper signal delivery to consumers and make mobile TV another function on our already increasingly useful mobile handsets. So, get ready to be hooked to mobisodes soon!The author is chairman of Reliance Entertainment and the views expressed are his own.