By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Advocates of competing wireless mobile audio/video services staged live demonstrations of their technologies here at the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment show, where showgoers were treated to multiple channels of wireless audio and video.
The technologies, called DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld) and Qualcomm's MediaFLO (Forward Link Only), would deliver multiple live TV channels and radio stations to battery-operated handheld devices, including cellphones and PDAs. Consumers would be able to watch TV on their handhelds while sitting, walking or traveling in a moving vehicle.
Both technologies would use spectrum outside the existing cellular bands, but cellular carriers could market the subscription services to owners of cellular handsets equipped with DVB-H and MediaFLO.
During the show, wireless-tower operator Crown Castle teamed up with companies such as Microsoft and Intel for a DVB-H demonstration that included live, brand-name TV services, digital music, and a feature-length movie beamed from terrestrial transmitters to a Windows Mobile-based PDA and to a Windows Mobile-based phone. The media content was encoded using Microsoft's Windows Media Audio and Video 9.
The user interface, developed by Athena-TV, allowed for channel changing, programming grids and "detailed views" of upcoming programming. Athena-TV complies with the DVB-CBMS and Nokia OAI specifications for mobile broadcast.
Crown Castle, which used its infrastructure for the demo, operates communications towers in 68 of the top 100 U.S. markets and owns a nationwide 5MHz swath of unencumbered spectrum in the 1.6GHz band in the top 300 markets. It intends to build and operate a dedicated DVB-H network for broadcasting digital television content to mobile devices, including cell phones.
Samsung and Nokia have said they plan to support the launch with cellphones incorporating DVB-H (digital video broadcasting-handheld) technology, the open standard that Crown Castle has adopted.
Initially, Crown Castle's service will deliver at least eight channels, and possibly as many as 16 channels, of QVGA 320x240-pixel resolution video at 15-30 fps, with a few audio channels thrown in.
The technology supports soft handoffs for use in in-vehicle applications. It's based on the H.264 video-compression technology, also known as AVC (Advanced Video Coding) and MPEG-4 Part 10.
DVB-H was designed from the ground up as a battery-friendly technology for small-screen handheld devices. It has been adopted by the DVB organization and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards-setting bodies. It will be implemented in Europe and Asia in spectrum abandoned by analog-TV broadcasters.
During its first live, over-the-air demonstration of FLO, Qualcomm talked up its technology's advantages. FLO, it said, supports:
At least 20 streaming channels of QVGA (240 by 320) video at 30 fps; 10 stereo audio channels using the HE AAC+ codec; and more than 800 minutes of stored, short-format video clips called Clipcasting;
low power consumption delivering four hours of viewing time on a standard 850 mAh battery without unacceptable degradation to a cellphone's talk or standby times;
And an average channel switching time of 1.5 seconds without buffering or progress bars.
In July, 17 companies from around the world created the FLO Forum to promote the global standardization of FLO Technology.
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