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Japan watches TV on iPhone

Posted: 12 Feb 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPhone  mobile TV  TV chip 

Mobile TV market outside Japan
In-Stat estimates that the number of One-Seg handsets shipped in Japan in 2008 came to 3 crore units. The percentage of handsets shipped with One-Seg in Japan were in the low 60 per cent range at the beginning of the year but later approached 90 per cent of handsets shipped.

Replicating the Japanese mobile TV success outside Japan won't be easy, however.

"Mobile TV continues to struggle outside Japan as operators, broadcasters and subscribers try to come up with a business plan that makes mobile TV viable," said David Chamberlain, principal analyst, responsible for wireless at In-Stat. "One thing we lack in the United States is a broadcast footprint... MediaFLO is available in a limited number of markets. Today's Congressional decision to delay the transition to digital broadcasting means it will take even longer for MediaFLO USA to obtain necessary spectrum to expand its coverage."

Other options in the U.S. market such as plans for the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC)'s mobile digital TV or DVB-SH will take more time to develop.

Even in Spain and Italy, both considered to have done a good job making DVB-H available, "are still trying to find the best mix of free or subscription services," observed Chamberlain.

Nevertheless, if broadcast coverage is available, "TV& Battery" would be an attractive proposition even outside Japan, according to the In-Stat analyst. After all, "iPhone users have proven to be very eager to purchase new applications and accessories," he said.

Hotspot: Tokyo subways
These days, one often spots Japanese "salarymen" watching mobile TV in Tokyo subways.

Alon Ironi, CEO of Siano, sees the design win in the iPhone TV & Battery as a significant feat. "First, we weren't in the first wave of silicon that went into One-Seg mobile TV phones in Japan. Second, Japanese customers always want to see your chip already designed into someone else's handsets. They want to be 100 per cent sure that it works well," Ironi said.

The latest design-win will give Siano a much needed toehold in the Japanese market. "We don't have to be shy when we talk to new customers in Japan," he added.

SoftBank insisted on running intensive field trials of Siano's chip on a reference design in subways in Tokyo and Osaka, said Ironi. "They wanted to be absolutely certain of its quality, particularly going on the subway."

Once, prototypes of the "TV & Battery" accessory became available, SoftBank did another round of intensive field testing, Ironi said.

Siano is the sole supplier of mobile TV chips for the iPhone 3G accessory in Japan.

Siano's mobile TV IC today comes in a multi-chip-package solution, integrating a tuner die and digital demodulation die into one package.

"We had a plan to develop a single-die solution, but two years ago decided not to pursue it" for cost and time-to-market reasons, he explained. "The tuner " an analogue die " doesn't benefit from the geometry shrinkage of the digital chip."

The iPhone 3G accessory, now available in Japan, can be sold with every new iPhone 3G and also as an after-market accessory.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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