PCCW launches proprietary 3G TV service

08 Jun 2006
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The battlefield for a mobile TV standard is getting more fierce with the entry of a new contender leveraging cell broadcasting technology that has existed for years in the GSM/UTMS environment.

In a move to extend its popular IPTV content into the mobile space, Hong Kong incumbent carrier PCCW announced last month at the Broadband World Forum Asia that it will offer real-time TV broadcasting services to its 3G customers by deploying a simplified, proprietary version of a specification designed to deliver live TV services over cellular networks.

The incumbent is using cell multimedia broadcast (CMB), a technology developed by Huawei Technologies, the 3G network equipment supplier of PCCW's mobile partner, Sunday Communications, to offer a 24-hour financial channel and sports channels to its 110,000 trial mobile users. The service will be available through a software upgrade to users' Huawei 3G handsets by the end of June.

CMB reportedly supports 250 mobile subscribers per cell site and allows continuous broadcast feeds of TV programming over the 3G mobile network, reaching more people simultaneously than other current 3G technologies, according to a PCCW statement.

According to Huawei, CMB is an early form of Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (MBMS), a 3GPP standard for cell broadcasting that is expected to hit the market by the end of 2007.

Johnsheen Zhang, VP of the digital media products line at Huawei, told Wireless Asia that pre-MBMS/CMB 'has been developed to address the needs of mobile operators in Asia, and commercial trials of CMB are being undertaken by several operators in Europe and Asia.'

Leveraging existing network

PCCW executive director Alex Arena says one of the advantages of CMB technology is that it leverages the existing 3G infrastructure, which makes it a more cost-effective solution for cellular broadcasting than terrestrial- or satellite-based DVB-H and DMB standards.

'If you don't need to build another network or another overlay technology, it should be quite competitive and cheaper than other technologies like DVB-H and DMB,' he says. 'The advantage of CMB is that wherever you can get 3G coverage you will get the mobile TV service.'

PCCW isn't the first mobile operator to launch mobile TV in Hong Kong over its existing network. Telstra-owned CSL launched its own service in March, using a solution supplied by Golden Dynamic and NMS Communications. That service is different from other mobile TV offerings in that it uses technology based on the 3G-324M standard for circuit-switched video calls, according to NMS spokesperson Pam Kukla, rather than the 3G data channels for IP streaming or, in the case of technologies like DMB, DVB-H and MediaFLO, a separate broadcast network.

The use of 3G-324M also allows for a faster channel change compared to current video streaming over the 3G data network, Kukla says. 'If you've seen BT's Movio service, flipping from one channel to the next takes several clicks and as long as 20 seconds. CSL's worked hard to get that to under five seconds.'

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