MANHASSET, N.Y. With the Beijing Olympics only five months away, the mobile TV hype machine is working overtime. But the picture has been complicated by the arrival of Telegent Systems (Sunnyvale, Calif.), which is claiming that analog—not digital—TV will dominate the mobile TV market, especially in developing countries like China.
In an interview, Weijie Yun, CEO and co-founder of Telegent, said: "During the Olympics, it's the Chinese government's intention to demonstrate the nation's readiness for the digital age," including China's homegrown digital mobile TV standard known as China Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting. CMMB offers mobile TV broadcasts based on hybrid satellite-terrestrial coverage.
"But in reality," he added, "what makes mobile TV successful in China or in any other country is the combination of two factors: free, over-the-air broadcast content and mass deployment of mobile TV handsets."
Calling China's mobile TV push "free PR from the government," Telegent's CEO said his strategy is to ride the hype while promoting its CMOS-based analog TV tuner chip. The device has so far been designed into handsets from ZTE, and Konka, China's biggest TV manufacturer. Konka recently said it will diversify its business into mobile phones.
Not everyone agrees with Telegent's strategy, however. Alon Ironi, CEO at Siano Mobile Silicon, an Israeli company, said analog TV is dead. "Nobody is going back to analog."
Frank Dickson, chief research officer at MultiMedia Intelligence, agreed. "In terms of analog mobile TV, it just does not make sense," adding that "it is not a technology issue, it's a business-model issue."
Telegent hasn't completely abandoned digital mobile TV. "We've been working on CMMB for the last two and half years," Yun said, noting that Telegent was the first company to demonstrate CMMB in April 2007. The demo used a ZTE handset integrated with Telegent's CMMB tuner and a separate demodulation chip from Timi.
While Telegent is not disclosing its plan for CMMB-based mobile TV chips, Yun insists that analog mobile TV has more market strength than observers think. "Our company's key strategy it to get market timing"-which is so dependent on the [mobile TV] network infrastructure build-out"-out of the equation," Yu said.