TMCnet News

Is Qualcomm Trying to Brew' Up Mobile TV Technology?
[June 15, 2006]

Is Qualcomm Trying to Brew' Up Mobile TV Technology?

TMCnet Executive Editor

Less than a month after Qualcomm (News - Alert) wrapped up its BREW 2006 conference successfully showcasing many technologies built on its Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless platform, the wireless equipment maker is hoping to kick start development on its mobile TV platform ahead of widescale deployment planned in 2007.


On Thursday, a group called FLO Forum – a consortium of companies dedicated to the advancement of Qualcomm’s multicasting technology used in its 700 MHz spectrum – announced the publication of three technical specifications that it hopes will serve as the cornerstone for next-generation deployment.


“We're moving from the radio interface level up through the stack. We are making substantial progress on the rest of that FLO interface stack,” Kamil Grajski of Qualcomm and President of the FLO Forum told TMCnet.


Back in January, FLO Forum submitted its FLO (Forward Link-Only) Air Interface Specification (AIS) as a contribution to the TIA's Subcommittee TR-47.1. The newest specs cover Service Information (SI), the FLO Services and Use Cases Specification and updated versions of the FLO Device and Transmitter Minimum Performance Specifications that were first announced in March.


The specs help Qualcomm further differentiate its MediaFLO unit from its closest U.S. competitor, a Crown Castle International subsidiary called Modeo that plans to deploy mobile TV multicast service on the DVB-H standard in the 1.67 GHz band with the help of Nokia (News - Alert) and Microsoft (News - Alert). Both camps showed off their rival technologies earlier at the CTIA Wireless and NAB conferences in April.


But while the businesses still remain fiercely competitive, lines between the DVB-H and FLO camps have blurred. Curiously, one of the components suppliers leading that charge is Qualcomm itself. On May 26, the company announced a single-chip Universal Broadcast Modem (UBM) solution supporting MediaFLO, DVB-H and one-segment implementations of ISDB-T (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting – Terrestrial).


According to Grajski, whether Qualcomm announced a multiple-technology chipset or not, future-proofing was likely to have been a natural line of progression anyway for the mobile TV market. “Except for MediaFLO, every one of the companies participating in the FLO Forum is a multiple technology company,” he said during a telephone interview.


The unified solution comes as price points for single technology-based chipsets fall dramatically. According to a new ABI Research study, chipsets have already hit the watershed $10 mark and are expected to tumble to the $5 level within the next few years.


Given its effectiveness attracting independent software vendors (ISVs) to develop their wares on BREW, Qualcomm could see similar success with FLO. For example, BREW-based personal video recorders could be a value-added service to digitally capture clips from a MediaFLO subscription.


“This year’s [BREW 2006] event was sold out and felt like it. Almost every presentation we attended was standing room only,” said Brian Modoff, analyst at Deutsche Bank.


The latest SI spec defines the functions and structure of the system information associated with real-time and non-real-time broadcast and multicast services in FLO Networks. In this specification, SI provides users with the advance information needed to make service subscription and service selection decisions.


“Approval of the System Information Specification marks a key milestone towards multi-vendor interoperability of the FLO system,” said Vinod Valloppillil, vice president of product marketing for Roundbox and FLO Forum member.  “The specification is an important toolset for operators and software developers looking to provide consumers a powerful, flexible, branded solution for content navigation.”


The FLO Services and Content Committee’s Service Descriptions and Usage Flows Specification presents a set of use cases and service models for FLO services , which are used to derive requirements for other FLO technical specifications.  And the updated FLO Minimum Performance Specifications for both the Device and Transmitter provide refined performance guidelines based on the most up-to-date testing of commercial-grade FLO devices and transmitters.




Robert Liu is Executive Editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was Executive Editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. For more articles, please visit Robert Liu's columnist page.

[ Back To's Homepage ]