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Verizon Wireless Plans To Offer Live TV

Verizon Wireless announced plans to offer live-TV service to cellular handsets using Qualcomm’s MediaFLO technology, which delivers multiple channels of digital TV over the 700MHz band to handsets equipped with MediaFLO receivers.

MediaFLO would enable cable networks such as FOX News to distribute their programs live and in real time to cellular users. A rival technology developed by Crown Castle would operate in the 1.6GHz band and is currently being given a trial in Pittsburgh over GSM cellular networks. Both technologies would allow carriers to offer live-TV service without tying up cellular channels.

Verizon signed a letter of intent with Qualcomm to offer TV service based on Qualcomm’s technology. Although a launch date hasn’t been set, Verizon noted that Qualcomm expects to ship infrastructure to carriers by the end of 2006.

Verizon plans to offer live TV service within markets where it operates its CDMA 1x EV-DO network, which currently enables subscribers to Vcast service to download short videos and access other advanced services. The carrier would offer MediaFLO-enabled EV-DO handsets.

Sprint PCS and Cingular already offer some live-TV programming over their cellular frequencies through a downloadable application called MobiTV, but frame rates and resolution are lower than what MediaFLO and a competing technology, DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld), are expected to deliver. DVB-H is expected to offer 15 fps to 30fps of QVGA quality and eight to 16 channels. MediaFLO will deliver at least 20 streaming channels of QVGA (240- by 320-pixel) video at 30 fps, plus 10 stereo audio channels, over Qualcomm-owned spectrum in the 700MHz band, Qualcomm said.

The frame rates of the MobiTV service, on the other hand, are dependent on a particular phone’s wireless-data technology. Over CDMA 1x phones, MobiTV delivers frame rates of 1 fps to 5 fps, also dependent on the particular phone. Over Sprint’s EV-DO network, MobiTV delivers 15 fps Over Cingular GPRS, EDGE, and W-CDMA networks, MobiTV’s frame rates are 1 fps to 2 fps, 6 fps to 10 fps, and 12 fps to 15 fps, the company has said. In the United States, MobiTV offers nine live channels out of a total of 30 channels.