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Telegent bets on old-fashioned mobile TV

06 июня 2008

Telegent Systems, a small Silicon Valley-based semiconductor company, is betting that old-fashioned free-to-air analogue television broadcasting could hold the key to driving the adoption of TV in mobile phones in many large markets, including China.

While most of the world’s biggest telecoms equipment companies and network operators are battling over which digital technology standard will become dominant, Telegent has developed a semiconductor chip that, when built into mobile phones, enables them to receive existing live analogue broadcasts.

Telegent’s move is significant because digital mobile phone-based TV services have been slower to take off than most handset and chip makers had expected.

Analysts suggest this is partly because of the battle over digital standards and the limited digital content available.

Qualcomm, the leading US mobile phone chip maker, Samsung Electronics and Nokia have all invested heavily in developing digital technologies such as MediaFlo and DVB-H, which enable especially adapted mobile phones to receive live digital TV.

Mobile carriers in Japan, South Korea, Europe and North America have all launched limited mobile TV services.

Last month, Qualcomm spent $558m in the US and $16.6m in the UK to buy radio spectrum for that purpose, while rivals Samsung Electronic and LG Electronic announced that they were teaming up to develop a rival digital mobile TV standard in North America.

The companies are hoping to stake their claim on a rapidly growing market.

According to Juniper Research, an IT consultancy, the value of the global mobile TV market will grow from $1.4bn last year to $11.9bn in 2012.

Japan and South Korea account for the bulk of that market. Elsewhere, consumer response has been lukewarm because of the limited number of digital TV channels available, the quality of some of the services and the additional monthly fee most carriers charge for the service.

“Mobile TV uptake is significantly influenced by the content that consumers are able to view on their handsets,” says Michelle Abraham of In-Stat, a leading US-based technology analyst firm.

“The growing success of free-to-air mobile TV services suggest consumer pre-ference for programmes that are most like what people watch at home.”

Telegent, founded in 2004 with venture capital funding, is hoping to tap into this pent-up demand by delivering receiver chips for mobile phones that consume little battery power – a key constraint for handset manufacturers – and enable owners to watch existing analogue TV broadcasts for free.

“Digital TV broadcasts rely on specially-made content, but consumers are used to watching television for free, [which makes it hard for providers to charge a premium for content],” says Yun Weijie, co-founder and chief executive of Telegent.

Telegent began shipping its receiver chips last May and by the end of last year there were 5m phones in the world with their chips installed inside.

Mr Yun expects an additional 25m receivers will be shipped this year, bringing the total number of analogue TV enabled handsets to 30m – surpassing the number of digital TV enabled units. Telegent also makes chips that can receive both digital and analogue TV signals.

Mr Yun claims Telegent is the “first and only company” to succeed in making an analogue TV receiver small enough and that consumes little enough power to be used in mobile phones.

“Many have tried to do that before, but 100 per cent of them failed. It was considered impossible,” he says.

Most of Telegent’s sales generate in emerging markets such as Latin America, Middle East and China, where, unlike Europe and North America, which are switching to digital broadcasting, analogue transmissions are expected to continue for many years.

Telegent has linked up with local manufacturers – in
China it works with Shanghai Tianyu Technology and ZTE, for example, which produce phones in large volumes locally, but have relatively little global presence.

Telegent is in discussions to license its receivers to the so-called “Big Five” global manufacturers, such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson, Mr Yun says.

Источник: Financial Times

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