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LG, Verizon Team For Cell TV Launch

LG teamed up with cellular carrier Verizon Wireless to offer what will be one of the industry’s first commercially available cellular phones capable of receiving live subscription-based digital-TV broadcasts.

The phone uses Qualcomm’s MediaFLO technology, which was designed from the ground up as a multipath-resistant, battery-friendly technology for small-screen handheld devices. It delivers multiple live TV channelsto cellular phones and other portable devices that people can watch when they’re stationary or in a moving vehicle. Multiple TV channels are delivered wirelessly over Qualcomm-owned spectrum in the UHF channel 55 spectrum to prevent TV broadcasts from hogging cellular spectrum.

LG’s phone is the VX9400, a dual-band 800/1900MHz CDMA 1x EV-DO phone with built-in MediaFLO tuner and 2.2-inch display screen that can be rotated into landscape mode for TV viewing. A retractable antenna improves TV reception. The phone lets users receive phone calls and text messages while a TV program is streamed, and it displays a Verizon program guide.

Details of Verizon’s implementation, called V Cast Mobile TV, were unavailable at press time, but Qualcomm said the carrier would launch service in the first quarter. Additional trials are underway with Sprint, Cingular and T-Mobile, Qualcomm added.

Qualcomm completed MediaFLO trials with BSkyB in the United Kingdom and claimed the real-world tests outperformed Qualcomm’s expectations. The trials found that 20 channels of QVGA video and stereo audio could be broadcast over a single 5MHz spectrum allocation, video-channel switching times were an average 2.1 seconds, and the acquisition of a channel guide too an evarge of two seconds.

In the past, Qualcomm said the technology was capable of broadcasting up to 20 video channels at a time in QVGA resolution up to 30fps in so-called “good overage areas” representing more than 90 percent of a market area and a minimum 15fps in “moderate coverage areas.” The company also has said that MediaFLO battery life is equivalent to cellular talk-time battery life.

V Cast Mobile TV will be available in select markets this year. A timetable for expansion was unavailable at press time, but the timetable will be contingent on the number of markets in which Qualcomm owns channel-55 analog spectrum not in use by a UHF station. Previously, Qualcomm hasn’t mentioned the number of markets in which it owns channel 55 spectrum, nor has it said how many of those markets aren’t currently served by an analog UHF station, but they all must vacate their analog spectrum in early 2009.

MediaFLO’s competitors include DVB-H (digital video broadcasting-handheld), designed like MediaFLO specifically for portable and mobile applications. Another potential competitor is the proposed Advanced-VSB (A-VSB) enhancement to the current 8-VSB terrestrial digital-TV standard. The backward-compatible technology proposed by Samsung and Sinclair Broadcasting to the Advanced Television Systems Committee would enable existing digital TV stations to transmit their current program lineups to portable and mobile devices, including cellular phones, installed car TVs, and battery-powered hand-held TVs. Alternately, a TV station could use its bandwidth to offer multiple channels of subscription TV for mobile devices.

Other features of the LG phone include up to 215 minutes of talk time, a soft-feel coating for a firm grip, 262K color TFT display, playback of MP3 and Windows Media Audio files, over-the-air music downloading, 1.3-megapixel camera, and stereo Bluetooth. The 4.06-ounce phone is 4.04 inches by 1.93 inches by 0.73 inches in size.