Qualcomm plans 'universal' mobile TV chip

The Universal Broadcast Modem should help the interoperability of mobile technologies, even though it doesn't support one of the most popular standards around

Qualcomm is developing a product that may help the nascent mobile TV market avoid a protracted battle over standards.

The US company announced on Friday that it is working on what it dubs the Universal Broadcast Modem (UBM) chip. It will support three rival mobile TV standards — DVB-H, ISDB-T and FLO.

"Our UBM solution addresses the industry's need by providing a single universal chip that supports three of the world's leading standards, enabling mobile handsets to receive real-time content regardless of the broadcast technology selected by operators," claimed Mike Concannon, vice-president of strategic products at Qualcomm, in a statement.

The Universal Broadcast Modem will be compatible with 3G devices based on CDMA 2000 or WCDMA/UMTS, and is scheduled to reach production in early 2007.

However, it will not support DMB, a popular mobile TV standard that is making much of the early running in the race to supply mobile users with broadcast television on the move.

DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) is an extension of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting). BT's mobile TV service, called Movio, is based on DMB, as is a service being launched in Germany this month ahead of the football World Cup. Several handset manufacturers are working on DMB-compatible phones.

O2 , which has been testing a mobile TV service based on DVB-H in Oxford, claims that DVB-H is technically superior to DMB. However, the spectrum needed for DVB-H isn't currently available in the UK.

FLO is the basis for Qualcomm's own mobile TV standard, MediaFLO. Earlier this month, Sky announced that it would trial MediaFLO in the UK. ISDB-T (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting — Terrestrial) is used in Japan to broadcast to television sets.

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