At Mobile World Congress, chip maker IPWireless is demonstrating new technology called Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB), which will let operators offer mobile TV on tablets and smartphones like Apple's iPhone and iPad, and Samsung's Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab.
Of these devices, the Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with IMB integrated. The Samsung Galaxy S has been outfitted with a false back, which has the IMB receiver built into it, and the Apple products have a receiver that is attached to the docking connector on the bottom of the device. The goal with the latter two products is to expand the number of products that users can watch IMB broadcasts on, according to Keith Dewar, vice president of marketing at IPWireless in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The technology is now being tested in the UK by O2, Orange and Vodafone with a total of about 200 users.
The adoption of IMB will mean better picture quality compared to TV streamed over existing 3G networks, IPWireless said. The picture quality demonstrated at Mobile World Congress doesn't suffer from the pixelation that video over 3G networks does. The picture also looks surprisingly sharp, even though the resolution is only 320x240 pixels. A channel change takes a couple of seconds, and the picture first looks distorted for a brief moment before it settles down.
In addition to TV, IMB can be used for any service that mainly downloads data to the user, in the process making efficient use of bandwidth available to operators.
IMB sends data using spectrum reserved for Time Division Duplex (TDD) services, which uses one channel to alternately send and receive data. The operator can configure the network to use the available spectrum for sending data to the subscriber, which is a good fit for broadcast services. Most current 3G networks send data to and from the subscriber using separate channels, which doesn't allow for the same flexibility.
Many European operators received some TDD spectrum when they were awarded 3G licenses. In total, more than 150 operators across 60 countries covering more than half a billion subscribers own the required 5MHz of TDD spectrum necessary to implement IMB, according to IPWireless.