By Greg Sandoval
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
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
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.