MediaFLO changes mobile TV standards conversation

In a recent episode of the TV show “Mad Men,” protagonist Don Draper — who makes personal reinvention seem like an art form he created — tells a client, "If you don't like what people are saying, change the conversation."

Recent mobile TV history, and conversation, hasn't been kind to MediaFLO, QUALCOMM’s mobile TV broadcast technology. First, the European Commission endorsed DVB-H as its standard, ostensibly leaving MediaFLO out in the cold. Then, after investing hundreds of millions on its planned U.S. rollout, QUALCOMM was forced to sit on its thumbs as the digital TV transition date was moved out four months, significantly cutting the company's early-move advantage. All of this prompted headlines such as "Dueling DVB-H, MediaFLO Mobile-TV Standards," "MediaFLO and DVB-H smackdown in Taiwan" and "Mobile TV: QUALCOMM’s MediaFLO or MegaFLOP?"

However, that's in the past and MediaFLO hopes to change the conversation, leaving the world of warring standards to others. Instead, the company is demonstrating how MediaFLO plays well with others and brings added value to the party — especially as wireless carriers face new competition and escalating bandwidth requirements.

"It doesn't have to be a choice between standards," says Vicki Mealer, QUALCOMM’s senior director of product management at MediaFLO Technologies. "We continue to get a lot of interest [from operators] around the world to launch FLO and use it to augment whatever other services and standards are available. We are currently doing trials in Japan that combine FLO to enhance the free [broadcast] service. We feel the same way about the U.S. There's a lot of buzz about ATSC-MH. We're saying, adding that to FLO is a fantastic consumer win."

MediaFLO lets operators complement free, broadcast mobile TV with interactive features such as widgets, links to related content and social media and give customers extra viewing choices.

"We can take a show and push it through the broadcast pipe to a device at a specific time. The handset automatically 'catches' that downloaded file, and you can watch it any time." For operators, the advantage is that they don't have the bandwidth and storage overhead of a VOD system, and customers get to watch their favorite shows on their own schedule, including when they're offline.

At IBC2009, MediaFLO will show an e-reader service that broadcasts periodicals — for example, weekly news magazines — to a netbook.

No one technology alone will deliver the multimedia future that users increasingly expect, Mealer says, and technology decisions should be driven by the application. "Our technology is laser-perfect for live TV; that is well-documented. The day of Michael Jackson's funeral, our day-over-day viewership shot up 70 percent,” Mealer says. “Our technology is tailor-made for those live events."

Mobile Europe - February 2009

This MWC 2009 demonstration shows how MediaFLO adds interactivity to core mobile TV services.

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