Mobile TV industry lines up for World Cup

Paul Boughton

Chipset suppliers are lining up to supply chips that will support both emerging mobile TV technologies, as the first commercial European mobile TV service has launched in Italy for start of the World Cup.

But the market is shifting, with Analog Devices entering the market by buying one of the current leading suppliers, Integrant Technologies of Seoul, Korea, for DMB, and a move to both DVB-H and DMB in Europe.

Digital TV tuner supplier Microtune is developing a tuner for both DVB-H and DMB. UK mobile operator O2 has been testing DVB-H in Oxford and Virgin and BT are to use DMB, a variant of the DAB digital radio technology, in the UK.

“Last year we though that the DVB-H was the leader, and it will still take a lion's share, but we will have to support both standards,” said Jim Fontaine, CEO of Microtune. This has been driven by customer requirements, he said, and is likely to launch in 2007.

It supplies a DVB-H tuner to phone maker LG for mobile TV service on a 3G phone that started broadcasting earlier this month in Italy. It is also supplying the tuner for a phone developed for the Crown Castle DVB-H network in the US, alongside a demodulator chip from French company DIBcom.

Meanwhile Frontier Silicon is also developing a dual DMB/DVB-H chipset that will be ready in Q3 this year. It already ships the DMB tuner called Apollo and the Kino baseband demodulator chip for Samsung phones which are used in commercial systems in Korea and in trials in China, Germany and the UK. It says it has shipped over a million units so far.

“We have now been working with leading mobile TV handset manufacturers for over two years and the next stage of our development in this area will be the sampling of our next generation multi-standard DVB-H/DMB baseband IC in Q3 this year,” said Anthony Sethill, CEO of Frontier.

ADI's $127m deal to acquire Integrant gives the small RF company much wider access to the global market. It is best known for the low-power Digital Multimedia Broadcast (DMB) tuners it supplies to Korea's leading mobile phone manufacturers and Korea currently leads the world in the deployment of mobile TV services.

Integrant will be part of ADI's high-speed signal processing division. “As we've seen in applications from cellular telephony to digital TVs, customers value RF solution providers that support multiple standards and frequencies with compatible families of products. Integrant's technology provides that same value to the rapidly emerging mobile TV markets, such as T-DMB, ISDB-T and DVB-H, where receivers are being integrated into mobile phones, personal video players, portable DVD players, notebook PCs, and automotive entertainment systems,” said John Hussey, vice president for High-Speed Signal Processing at ADI.

“The synergies between ADI and Integrant are powerful,” said Integrant company founder, Beom-Kyu (Brian) Ko. “Together we will have the technology and systems expertise to provide customers with a complete signal chain for multi-standard multimedia applications.”

Microtune is also investigating a single chip tuner and demodulator in CMOS, rather than the SiGe technology used today for the tuner, as well as single package and integrated tuners for GPS, WiFi and digital TV. “We are investigating all three,” said Fontaine.