As a recent convert to the mobile TV religion (I have seen the light and it is pixilated digital), I was at first amazed at how many modulation technologies are vying for the crown of MTV (hasn't somebody used that acronym before?) standard.
Actually, it's not too surprising that the field is flooded with contenders. If the cell phone business is any indication of what's in store for mobile TV, there's a lot of money at stake.
Qualcomm rode its CDMA technology into a very, very large fabless semiconductor business. So large, in fact, Big Q is probably the largest fabless semiconductor company in the world.
But I was talking about contenders.
There are at least eight, each with its own regional flavorand China will, of course, insist on its own standard even though it will likely be just a flavor of one of the other technologies. When you are as big a market as China, you really don't have to pay royalties.
But for the time being, let's focus our attention on just two: DVB-H and MediaFLO.
DVB-H has the strong backing of Nokia. It is an open standard that was approved by ETSI in 2004.
MediaFLO, Qualcomm's proprietary technology.
I don't know if you've noticed, but Nokia and Qualcomm aren't friends anymore.
In one of the more bizarre manifestations of globalization, they are suing and countersuing each other in just every country in the world except Nauru.
Generally speaking, the litigation is about IP. But I think mobile TV has a lot to do with it too because MTV it is out there in futureland where the next generation of fortunes will be made.
I wouldn't exactly say that DVB-H has a lock on Europe but it certainly has the inside track. It's a kissing cousin of DVB-TV, a terrestrial broadcast technology. It has been extensively trialed. It transmits in the L band (roughly from 0.39 to 1.55 GHz), which will not be widely available until analog TV is phased out in Europe (2010). But that's not all that far away and in the meantime it can use other bands.
Needless to say, Qualcomm has at least as much clout in the U.S. as Nokia has in Europe. Wall Street, in particular, would probably like to see Qualcomm repeat its ever-so-rewarding CDMA experience with MediaFLO.
So there you have ita battle of the titans. I don't know how it will turn out but it will be something to watch: in the courts, in the deployment trials, and in the regulatory bodies and legislatures.
And let's not forget the hearts and minds of consumers. I can see a day when Qualcomm, taking a note from Intel's marketing playbook, will launch a MediaFLO Inside advertising campaign.