NEW YORK – We might have gotten this wrong all along.
Mobile TV, after all, isn’t really about mobile phones. It’s about TV receivers that go into automobiles, media tablets, even home TVs and any other existing or yet-to-emerge products.
Siano Mobile Silicon, a Netanya, Israel-based supplier of mobile digital TV receiver chips, is announcing Monday (Aug. 8th) a design win with a major German automobile manufacturer who is rolling out new models equipped with Hirschmann Car Communication GmbH (HCC)’s latest automotive TV reception system -- powered by Siano.
During EE Times’ recent phone conversation with Alon Ironi, CEO of Siano, it was clear that Ironi still remains very committed to the mobile TV market the world over. Siano receiver chips are designed to cover various digital TV standards in different regions worldwide – DVB-T for Europe and Australia, CMMB for China. The same architecture supports ISDB-T for Japan and South America.
It’s even clearer that Siano is expanding its market well beyond mobile handsets. The company is pushing its chips in automotive (as seen in the latest announcement) as well as home digital TV markets in countries like Brazil.
Pursuing multi-standards and multi-markets is becoming a key strategy for fledgling mobile TV chip companies, as a matter of their survival.
Let’s face it. Mobile TV, once viewed as “the next big thing” for mobile phones, seems to have faded into obscurity – at least in the United States, where Qualcomm shut down its FLO TV operations last fall, and where the ATSC mobile broadcast has yet to take off.
Is it just my imagination or is it a fact?
Here are some data points that serve to clarify the situation.
Early July, a rumor started about the uncertain future of Telegent Systems Inc., once a high-flying startup of mobile TV receiver chips for cell phones (with a large engineering team in China). The obvious first question everyone asked was whether the initial enthusiasm for mobile TV on cell phones has already run its course, even in China.
Evidently, not quite.
Sources insist that the Chinese mobile TV market is still alive and well, especially products based on the China Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting (CMMB) standard backed by China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). The demand for analog TV receivers, however, has been waning. Telegent’s struggle had much to do with the spectacular price slippage in a very competitive Chinese market.
Then, Spreadtrum Communications, Shanghai-based fabless developer of baseband and RF chips for wireless communications market, announced on July 19th that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire Telegent.
How the deal is structured and how much Spreadtrum actually paid for Telegent was not disclosed at the time of the announcement. But later, Leo Li, chairman, president and CEO of Spreadtrum, speaking on a
telephone conference call with analysts to discuss the company's second quarter
financial results, has paid $1 million to acquire Telegent.
Then, less than 10 days later of the Spreadtrum/Telegent announcement, Paris-based firm called Parrot said that it is buying DiBcom, a leading mobile TV chip vendor based in Palaiseau, the suburbs of Paris. Parrot, focused on the development of hands-free wireless systems for cars, motorbikes and scooters, is said to be interested in using DiBcom’s expertise in the multi-standard digital radio and television field – and its broader customer base – in the automotive sector.
The Parrot/DiBcom transaction, according to Parrot’s announcement on July 28th, consists of 15.9 million euro to purchase share capital and a net debt buyback (initially mainly convertible bonds) for approximately 12 million euro.
That price tag, in a nutshell, tells the whole story.