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A new study by ABI Research, here, concludes that the impact of satellite video in the car from Sirius and possibly XM Satellite Radio “may not be as profound as the satellite radio firms expect,” said ABI Research's senior analyst Dan Benjamin.
Benjamin believes narrow bandwidth will become a major stumbling block for satellite radio video services. “We're estimating that [Sirius] will devote 400 to 500Kbits per second of bandwidth to video, and that is per channel, with two or three channels. At that rate, video quality is less than that of DVD and would cover only a small screen, the size of a PDA,” he claimed. “It's not the quality that people are used to. It's more akin to smaller, grainy streaming Internet video,” he said.
Instead, 3G cellular networks delivering streaming video over the Internet would be a preferable technology for the car, said Benjamin. “When 3G services arrive, there will be enough bandwidth for video at comparable or better quality than the satellite radio providers. Unlike satellite radio, which will be limited to broadcasting, the Internet can provide content on demand,” he added.
A quick scan of industry members found that not all agreed with ABI's conclusions, especially looking at the market over the next few years.
A spokesman for Verizon Wireless said streaming video to the car “is a long way off.” Verizon currently delivers streaming video over an EV-DO network at 15 frames per second (fps), which is less than TV quality (at 30 fps) to mobile phone users. Verizon's service, called V CAST, presently offers music videos and the carrier claims it is able to transmit data at up to 1MBps, with compression. Verizon said that V CAST for the car “is certainly possible given the tremendous bandwidth capacity of the EV-DO network, but capability and bringing the service to market can be two different things,” according to the spokesman.
Sirius also disputes ABI's forecasts about satellite radio's video quality. Bob Law, retail operations senior VP, said Sirius has not released actual bandwidth specifications for video, but notes that the service has already been demonstrated and it provides “more than adequate quality for screen sizes that you are going to have in a vehicle, including 7 inches.”
Regarding competition from 3G networks, Law said, “I don't believe 3G has the robustness at this point and certainly when you start getting away from the major metropolitan areas, our signal coverage still has a big advantage.”
Benjamin says the frontrunner 3G technology for streaming video is W-CDMA, which is currently available in Japan and Europe, and is slated for a regional launch in the United States in 2007 or 2008.
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