Hong Kong -- China's new broadcast mobile-TV spec bears a striking resemblance to a European satellite spec called DVB-SH. That may help chip and infrastructure providers leverage their R&D investments, but it could also raise some sticky intellectual property issues.
In October, a government ministry rolled the China Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting (CMMB) spec, based on homegrown technology known as STiMi (short for satellite and terrestrial interactive multiservice infrastructure). The service operates in the 2.6-GHz frequency, using 25 MHz of bandwidth to offer 25 video and 30 radio channels, plus some data channels.
"The basics are very close to what we have been working on [for DVB-SH], so we believe the technology we are developing for Europe can be easily adapted to the Chinese market," said Olivier Coste, president of Alcatel/Lucent's Mobile Broadcast unit.
Some Chinese officials have hinted that the new standard will be mandatory, effectively blocking the potential nationwide deployment of Europe's DVB-Handheld, Qualcomm's MediaFlo and South Korea's Terrestrial-DMB.
Targeting the S-band, DVB-SH (digital video broadcast from satellite for handhelds) is nearing the end of the standardization process. Alcatel demonstrated DVB-SH in the United Kingdom last month, and work on the spec should wrap up by the end of the month.
The European standard enables direct-to-mobile transmission using the S-band, and it boosts indoor coverage via terrestrial repeaters. Its Internet Protocol-based transmissions use the 2.2-GHz frequency and an orthogonal frequency-division multiplexed waveform with an improved link budget that employs codes, according to the UMTS Forum.
"I was in Beijing last month and was struck by how similar (CMMB) is to DVB-SH," said Bosco Fernandes, who chairs the UMTS Forum's Mobile TV Group. "But I still don't think it will be easy to deploy."
Fernandes said it is more likely that the Chinese will use cellular-based unicast or multicast services to fulfill a promise to deliver mobile video at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Sometime after that, a broadcast technology would be layered onto those cellular video services to form a hybrid network for multimedia.
Some industry watchers noted there may be IP issues involved with CMMB because of its similarity to DVB-SH. But they noted it would be difficult, both legally and politically, for foreign companies to press for compensation in China.