By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Live TV is coming to more cellular handsets.
Cingular Wireless, Atlanta, in January expanded the availability of MobiTV's mix of live TV and video-on-demand programming to all of its markets not previously part of the AT&T Wireless network, which Cingular purchased late last year.
Sprint PCS began offering MobiTV in November 2003.
Meantime, SmartVideo Technologies of Norcross, Ga., launched its own live-TV and video-on-demand service for PDA phones and smartphones based on the Microsoft and Symbian operating systems.
SmartVideo's service is available to subscribers of any cellular network as long as they use a compatible PDA phone or smartphone. The programs play through Windows Media Player and RealPlayer on the Microsoft- and Symbian-based devices, respectively. The Cingular and Sprint services, in contrast, are available only to those carriers' customers, who must own a phone capable of downloading Java-based applications, including the MobiTV application.
With MobiTV, cellular users can watch live news and sports and on-demand entertainment programming on 22 channels, including live broadcasts on MSNBC, CNBC, the ABC News Now 24/7 Internet-only channel, C-SPAN and Major League Baseball games. Other channels include NBC Mobile, FOX Sports, Discovery, TLC and others. The monthly cost is $9.99 on top of standard data-usage charges.
The SmartVideo service includes live broadcasts from CNBC, MSNBC, ABC News Now and The Weather Channel along with video-on-demand content, including NBC Mobile. Additional content deals are in development. A monthly subscription starts at $12.95, but for the additional cost, subscribers view content at an average frame rate of 15 fps (frames per second) through any 2.5G network, such as a GPRS network, with a data bandwidth of 23Kbps. The frame rate increases over EDGE will exceed 24 fps, and during congested periods, users will get a minimum 15 fps. Frame rates will be higher on future W-CDMA and CDMA 1X EV-Do PDA phones and smartphones.
In contrast, MobiTV is available over Cingular's GPRS, EDGE, and W-CDMA networks at 1 fps to 2 fps, 6 fps to 10 fps, and about 12 fps to 15 fps, respectively, a spokesman said.
Over Sprint PCS, 22 MobiTV channels are available at 1 fps to 2 fps over 90 percent of Sprint's phones. The frame rate jumps to 5 fps over Samsung's MM-A700 Media Phone and Sanyo's 7400, thanks to increased processing power.
Sprint's frame rates could go higher with the carrier's planned launch of EV-DO (evolution data optimized) wireless service at peak data rates of up to 2.4Mbps in major U.S. metro areas during 2005. The company hasn't revealed further details of the deployment.
A separate Sprint Multimedia Service delivers prerecorded video clips to the two Samsung and Sanyo phones at 15 fps for playback through their built-in media player software. More than 600 fresh pieces of content are posted everyday, including the latest news, over 17 channels. That service, like Sprint's MobiTV service, costs $9.99 a month.
MobiTV was developed by Idetic of Berkeley, Calif.
Cingular phones capable of displaying MobiTV programs are the Nokia 6620, Motorola V3 (RAZR), Motorola V220, and Motorola V180. The planned Motorola V400 and V600 handsets also support it.
In other wireless-TV news, Verizon Wireless announced a pact with Twentieth Televison to produce direct-to-phone TV series to subscribers of Verizon's high-speed VCAST CDMA 1X EV-DO service, available Feb.1 through three handsets. The TV company will produce 51 one-minute episodes of two original soap operas. The soaps will be viewable initially on three EV-DO phones equipped with Microsoft Windows Media player integrated into a PacketVideo player. The phones are the LG VX8000, $249 Samsung SCH-a890, and UTStarcom's CDM-8940.
Beginning Feb. 1, downloadable V CAST multimedia content will be available for $15 a month on top of regular calling-plan costs and included unlimited Web browsing. Premium content costs extra.
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