Mobile TV has really only achieved great popularity in nations such as Japan and Korea.

But the market is expected to expand rapidly over the next few years, spurred on by the smartphone which is driving improvements in screen quality, microchips and antennas. spoke to David Srodzinski, chief executive of fledgling semiconductor firm Elonics, about his expectations for the future of mobile TV.

Mobile TV will soon become as accepted a feature of mobile handsets as the camera.

That is the prediction of David Srodzinski, founder and chief executive of Elonics, a semiconductor company that has designed a silicon radio frequency (RF) tuner used to convert signals into sound and pictures.

“We do see mobile TV as going to take off just like the camera phone has taken off,” he said.

“It’s not something you will use all the time, but it’s a part of the phone that will be such a ‘nice to have’ feature that all phones will simply have to have them.”

David Srodzinski CEO Elonics

Based in Livingston, Scotland, Elonics recently announced that David Milne, the founder and former chief executive of chip maker Wolfson Microelectronics, was joining its board as non-executive chairman.

Milne was credited with taking Wolfson from a university spinout to the FTSE 250 and the company made its name as a key supplier of microchips to the iPod.

Founded in 2003, Elonics has developed RF architecture called DigitalTune that is the foundation for a family of re-configurable CMOS RF front end products.

Its E4000 device is designed for reception of all major world-wide fixed and handheld terrestrial digital multi-media broadcast standards within UHF to L-Band ranges (76MHz to 1.70GHz).

It allows designers to implement front ends capable of cost effectively supporting multiple TV and radio broadcast standards and enabling smaller, lighter, cheaper and lower power consumer electronics.

Elonics has finished market sampling its products and is about to begin mass-production.

Srodzinski said the immediate focus for the broadcast receiver technology was the traditional TV market, ranging from digital TVs, set-top boxes and PC TVs to multi-media devices.

But he believed the biggest opportunities lay in the mobile TV market, with analysts forecasting sales of mobile TV enabled handsets rising to 100 millionin 2010.

“All future potential growth is coming from the cell phone side of the market,” he said. “Smartphones are increasingly a sizeable part of that market.”

Screen size and quality a key factor influencing the adoption of mobile TV on cell phones

Srodzinski said that with QVGA screens appearing on increasing numbers of handsets, a barrier to mobile TV was being removed.

He said that prior to the introduction of QVGA screens, adding mobile TV to a cell phone meant additional costs for the screen, the graphic processors and mobile TV chip set.

“With the advent of QVGA offerings, such as on the new HTC phones and the iPhone, which have them as standard, the cost add of mobile TV is minimal now,” he said.

For the screens alone, Srodzinski estimated that the cost add had dropped by a tenth, from USD $50 to $5.
“All that has to be added now is the mobile TV chip set,” he said.

But if cost and technological issues were no longer an impediment to widespread uptake of mobile TV, what about users’ appetite for the service?

Srodzinski expected mobile TV to be something people would use once or twice a week for five to 10 minutes, most probably as a free-to-view service.

“That user experience will be such a good feature and such a compelling reason, that people will want mobile TV on their cell phones in a similar way to how they want to have camera phones too,” he said.

“We believe that if mobile TV works and takes off in that way, it will be a major opportunity that will grow out of the smartphone and into middle layer cell phones.”

The great success of mobile TV in Japan and Korea, where penetration rates now reach 40 per cent, owes a great deal to government intervention promoting the services, according to Srodzinski.

He said this had created revenue opportunities and lifted technological barriers to entry.

“What’s holding back other parts of the world has more to do with the infrastructure roll-out and the cost of doing that,” he said. “That and the lack of clear government support.”

However, Srodzinski insisted that the growth of mobile TV in territories outwith Japan and Korea would accelerate as more people experienced it and saw the quality of the services and content.

“I think other regions will catch on,” he said. “This is not a technological push situation – it has to be a consumer-led requirement., especially if it’s free-to-air that takes off.”

While content may be free, any explosion in mobile TV will also have to offer opportunities for revenue to the industry.
As Srodzinski said: “The question has to be: who makes any money out of it? There’s no particular economic benefit to operators.”

Undoubtedly an answer to that conundrum will be found, but will mobile TV really take off?
Please let us know your thoughts on the matter.

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