Broadcast TV on Phones?
Current cell-phone video offerings are underwhelming, but two (incompatible) technologies coming soon will let more carriers provide multiple live TV channels. DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld), promoted by Motorola, Nokia, and Intel, and FLO (Forward Link Only), from Qualcomm's MediaFLO USA division, will both beam live video to your phone; each requires an overlay network on top of a 3G network.
Current 3G nets have unicast capabilities, which work well for calls with a signal traveling between a single transmitter and receiver. But unicast networks bog down if many users demand the same content; extra bandwidth is needed for each additional viewer of, say, a live World Series clip. DVB-H and FLO will let 3G networks multicast: One transmitter will reach many receivers.
In the U.S., Hiwire and Modeo are building DVB-H networks; no cell carriers have announced plans to use them yet. Verizon has signed up for FLO.
The network roll-outs should begin in late 2006 and throughout 2007. Also on the way: TDtv, from the Sprint-funded IPWireless, which runs over existing 3G nets. You may also hear talk of firms' using WiMax, also known as 802.16 (a wireless broadband standard with longer range than 802.11 Wi-Fi), on handheld devices, but no plans have been announced.