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Wireless Gets CE Spin At CTIA Show

Orlando, Fla. — Wireless executives here at CTIA Wireless 2007 talked about TVs, mobile computers, videophones, MP3 player, and high-speed wireless data chips being embedded in everyday consumer electronics devices.

Voice was also a topic.

During the show, HTC unveiled a palm-size Vista OS PC with built-in cellular, AT&T offered additional details about its planned cellular videophone service, and Verizon announced plans to aggressively advertise its MediaFLO-based mobile-TV service.

For their part, Qualcomm and the CDMA Development Group spoke of wireless chips embedded in everyday devices, like portable media players (PMPs) and handheld game machines, to connect them to wireless wide-area networks, including future Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) networks. UMB networks could eventually deliver wireless data at peak speeds of 290Mbps. Sprint talked of embedding Mobile WiMAX chips in CE devices.

Here’s what various companies had to say about these and other CE-related products and services on the horizon:

AT&T/Cingular: The company revealed additional details about its planned cellular videophone service, saying it would launch the service in 50 of its HSDPA markets in the summer. The service will enable one-way video streaming from one HSDPA phone to another during a two-way voice call, and “in a short time,” the phones will stream to PCs and TVs,” said AT&T COO Randall Stephenson.

CDMA Development Group: The association organized an afternoon-long seminar on UMB technology, described as the evolutionary path for CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. A carriers. One speaker, Deutsche Bank analyst Brian Modoff, foresaw UMB embedded in portable game consoles, portable media players (PMPs), digital cameras and camcorders, and vehicle telematics systems.

HTC: The company was offsite with multiple devices including a palm-top Vista OS PC with 30GB HDD and embedded GSM/EDGE/HSDPA phone. Dubbed Shift, it’s meant mainly as a wireless-data device, but it can be used to place voice calls with a headset. It features 7-inch widescreen touch screen on top, but when the PC folds open, the device takes on the appearance of a mini-notebook and a QWERTY keypad slides out for typing. It will be available in the third quarter as an unlocked phone, which will operate in HDSPA mode in U.S. and foreign bands and in GSM/EDGE mode in U.S. and foreign bands. It’s expected to retail for the price of a midrange notebook computer, HTC said.

The company also showed a PDA phone with a Shift form factor. The Advantage uses the Windows Mobile 6 OS and features touch screen and slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Additional details were unavailable.

Microsoft: Microsoft senior VP Peter Knook said LG and Toshiba have taken out licenses for the Windows Mobile 6 OS for smartphones and PDA phones and that three current Windows Mobile 5.0 devices on the AT&T network — the Palm 750, Cingular 8525, and Samsung Black Jack — will be upgraded to Windows Mobile 6, presumably as a running change.

Qualcomm: The chip maker announced a roadmap for its first UMB chip, which will deliver peak data downloads of 40Mbps and peak data uploads of 10Mbps. Qualcomm demonstrated the technology in fixed mode at the show and promised fully mobile demos in June.

Qualcomm also promised to deliver UMB silicon for handsets and base stations in mid-2008, expects commercial trials at the end of 2008, and projects early market trials in early 2009.

Sprint: The carrier, which previously announced the intended launch of commercial Mobile WiMAX service in April 2008 in select cities, said it has expanded the list of markets getting Mobile WMAX by the end of 2008 to markets with a combined population of 100 million people.

To support the commercial launch, Sprint said it is finalizing deals with three device makers for Mobile WiMAX modems. Samsung will offer a single-mode WiMAX PC Card modem and a dual-mode WiMAX/CDMA 1x EV-DO version. ZTE will offer single-mode WiMAX Express Card and USB Cards as well as a desktop modem. ZyCell will also offer WiMAX modems.

Verizon Wireless: The carrier said it began promoting its MediaFLO-based Mobile TV service in Kansas City, St. Louis and Denver for a couple of weeks and will expand the promotion to all of its MediaFLO markets in about a week. MediaFLO is up and operating in about 22 Verizon markets. The company held off extensive advertising until its second MediaFLO-equipped phone became available and it could be sure the network was operating properly. The second phone, available On March 27, is an LG model at $199 after $50 rebate and with two-year cellular contract. Most ads will appear on TV, supplemented by print, to show the LG phone and a Samsung TV phone at $149 (after $50 rebate and two-year contract.)