Chip makers IPWireless and ST-Ericsson said on Wednesday that they have joined forces to develop a platform designed to lower the cost of building Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB) technology into smartphones.
IPWireless is one of the companies that pioneered the development of IMB. ST-Ericsson is now joining the push to allow operators to deliver TV to smartphones, laptops and tablets using IMB and frequency spectrum they already have, but so far haven't been able to take advantage of.
By integrating IPWireless' IMB technology with ST-Ericsson's 3G chipset, overall costs can be lowered, according to Bill Jones, CEO at IPWireless. As a first step, IPWireless and ST-Ericsson will develop a demonstration platform that will allow vendors to start developing IMB-capable products, according to a statement.
Recently, IPWireless also signed an agreement with Samsung to develop and demonstrate phones with IMB built-in.
The first commercial IMB services are scheduled to arrive next year, according to IPWireless. In June, operators O2, Orange and Vodafone said they would conduct a joint UK trial to assess how mobile broadcast services can be deployed using a shared network infrastructure.
The trial was scheduled to start in October, but has been delayed due to difficulties in getting access to the sites and the need to upgrade base stations, according to a spokeswoman at Orange. A new starting date hasn't been confirmed, but the operators are still very much committed to testing IMB, she said.
IMB sends data using spectrum reserved for Time Division Duplex (TDD) services that most operators in Europe received when they were awarded 3G licences. Globally, 3G TDD spectrum is available to more than 150 operators across 60 countries covering more than half a billion subscribers, according to O2, Vodafone and Orange.
TDD uses the same channel to alternately send and receive data, and lets the operator configure the network to use the available spectrum for sending data to the subscriber, which a good fit for TV broadcasts. That compares to Frequency Division Duplex (FDD), which is used by most current 3G networks and sends data to and from the subscriber using separate channels, and doesn't allow the same flexibility.
However, TV isn't the only application that IMB can be used for. Failed experiences with technologies such as DVB-H have shown that doing just one thing isn't enough, according to Jones. Services such as video-on-demand, music streaming and other file downloads could also be moved to the IMB network, and in the process help offload the operators existing 3G network, he said.