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Sky teams up with MediaFlo for mobile TV trial

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Tech Digest Just when you thought you knew all about mobile TV, along comes yet another platform. After DVB-H and DMB comes MediaFLO, an innovation from Qualcomm, the US company best known for making chips for 3G handsets. Yesterday it confirmed a deal with BSkyB to trial the system in the UK in the summer.

We caught up with MediaFLO International senior director Omar Javaid, who gave us the background to the deal.

The Sky deal seems to have been a bit of a bolt from the blue. Is that the case?

Not really, we have been working on it for a while. Sky is a progressive company that’s very keen on emerging platforms. We are obviously keen on globally establishing MediaFLO too. We have deals in the US with Verizon to launch MediaFLO USA in Q4 this year and we are keen to expand into Europe.

Is the deal exclusive? Sky wasn’t part of the DVB-H trial.

Not for either party. We can trial the system with other partners and Sky can experiment with other platforms.

How will the trial work?

Well, it is a technical trial, but that means  we are going to be testing the services using real world mobile phone handsets. It will run in Cambridge in the summer of 2006 and we are keen to see how MediaFLO works with Sky.

If it is successful, how quickly could you launch a service in the UK?

The UK is an attractive market for us as the regulatory environment is very favourable. So if all goes well we could launch relatively quickly.

What are the key differences between MediaFLO and rival systems like the Nokia backed DVB-H?

There are a couple of key advantages. As MediaFLO is built from the ground up for mobile, it has much faster channel switching time than its rivals. We can also offer up to 30 channels in QVGA standard at 25 frames per second, which is a good video standard from mobiles.

Who is providing the handsets for the trial?

We haven’t named them yet, though there are MediaFLO handsets available from eight partners, including Samsung, LG and Pantech.

Do you think people from Europe will sample mobile TV in a different way than they do in the Asia and the USA?

I think mobile TV across the world will be very popular. As for the different regions, I think trials like the one we are doing will help us find out.

Lastly, it might sound daft, but how far are we away from HD on mobile phones?

Well, you kind of have it already with MediaFLO in that the distance which a person watches from a handset coupled with the quality of the video is akin to a 1080i/p signal. Realistically though, it will be a while before we see true HD on mobiles. In the far east the high end standard screen on mobiles used to be QVGA, now it is VGA, though for true HD it will have to be at least XGA, so when we reach that standard we will start to see 1080i signals popping up on mobiles.

So there you have it. Sky’s HD launch next week might be all about home TVs, but maybe the broadcaster is already sizing up the HD mobile market. Mmmm.

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