Electronic Design

Good TV Will Come In Small Packages

When contemplating where television electronics is headed, the phrase "bigger is better" comes to mind. Yet many changes are happening on the smaller end of the spectrum. The next killer application? Many prognosticators feel that TV on mobile phones is set to transform the mobile handset market.

Broadcast and Mobile Convergence (BMCO), an organization developing and testing broadcast/mobile converged services, recently surveyed 512 potential customers after using trial broadcast/mobile services. Nearly 78% regarded TV-on-Mobile as a good or excellent idea, and 82% would pay more for TV-on-Mobile services. BMCO also is bringing together hardware manufacturers and broadcasters to guarantee that they create compelling offerings as they converge.

However, some argue that consumers won't be interested in watching a lengthy program on a cell phone. And with the advent of "larger-than-life" HD applications, watching TV on a tiny screen isn't appealing. In fact, several challenges need to be addressed before TV-on-Mobile goes mainstream.

First, many people think that sheer display size is a limiting factor, but that's really not the case. Instead, display resolution (pixel size) and brightness need further improvement for a good TV experience on the cell phone. Second, there's no common standard for transmitting TV to mobile devices, as disparate standards like DVB-H, DVB-T, and DAB bid for worldwide adoption. Finally, given the already limited battery life of most cell phones, power supplies would need to be increased to support TV-on-Mobile.

In two to five years, these issues likely will become irrelevant. Semiconductor manufacturers are already working to address these problems, developing low-power solutions that let users watch TV for more than 10 hours before needing to charge their phones.

At the same time, system-in-package technology will ensure that cell phones remain small, even with added functionality. In the coming years, the industry will lean toward taking a standards-agnostic approach in TV-on-Mobile development, creating systems that will accommodate multiple global TV standards. This saves time and money for phone manufacturers, who will in turn pass the savings on to end users, thus fueling adoption.

Currently, TV-tuner prototypes are sampling, as well as decoders and system board schematics. By early 2006, some of these systems will be in production. ABI Research reports that by 2010, at least 10 million wireless customers in the U.S. will subscribe to TV-on-Mobile services.

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