Broadcast networks extend digital TV to mobile phones and VoIP prepares to hit mobile handsets.The 3GSM conference in Barcelona is the mobile telecommunications industry’s showcase. Two weeks ago the latest and greatest upcoming mobile handsets were on display, Windows Mobile 6 was launched and the upcoming WiMax and HSDPA standards were discussed.
Shockwaves from handset manufacturers’ attempts to out-do each other were felt in Sydney last week, where Nokia displayed its new range and discussed developments with the press.
The standout was the N95, which takes the slide-phone concept one step further than the N80. It slides up to reveal a standard keypad and down to reveal play/pause, stop, fast forward and rewind transport buttons. It features HSDPA, a five megapixel camera, GPS functionality and mobile TV.
Mobile TV evolves
Along with the N95, Nokia showcased the N77, which look and feel similar too the N80 slide phone and N71 respectively. The biggest new addition to both handsets is that they support DVB-H, a new standard for digital mobile TV broadcasts.
DVB-H is a modified version of the free-to-air broadcast standard used to provide digital TV. It uses existing TV transmitters to provide an adapted unicast signal that is picked up by mobiles, bringing better quality video than can currently be received through bandwidth limited IP based 3G networks.
It isn’t a complete departure from IP transmission though, as authentication and provision of a program guide is still managed through an IP layer. For example, footage can be recorded at the user’s discretion or scheduled through the program guide. If broadcasters change their schedule, the system will update itself and the handset will modify any preset recording times to compensate.
DVB-H has a lot of things going for it by comparison to other mobile TV technologies. It saves battery life by receiving information in bursts and subsequently powering down the receiver. The antenna can be easily integrated into the handset and it’s an open standard supported by Sony-Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and various electronic component companies including Intel and Texas Instruments. Broadcasters are also already armed with most of the equipment they need to deliver content.
Although trials have been conducted in Australia, currently no providers are transmitting DVB-H. Media groups will be able to purchase rights for DVB-H broadcast at an auction, which is scheduled to take place towards the end of the year. They will have to add some additional infrastructure to their existing transmission and repeater towers; however the outlay is expected to be minimal.
VoIP, GPS and synchronisation
VoIP’s future is extremely bright, as Nokia is looking for ways to add it into its new range of handsets. Standardisation is a sticking point, which is why Nokia’s series of consumer phones will only officially support Engin VoIP, while Nokia’s business phones will support Alcatel, Cisco and Avia VoIP systems. Nokia’s reasoning for this difference is that “there needs to be a clear distinction between the corporate space and the consumer space”.
Nokia also launched Smart2Go, a mapping system that loads data from Tele-atlas and Navteq to a handset from any available network, be it Wi-Fi, GPRS or 3G. Maps are then stored locally on the phone’s memory card to prevent the phone from requesting the same mapping information multiple times. It is available now as a free download, but will be preloaded on forthcoming Nokia handsets and named Nokia Maps. Support for Windows Mobile, Linux and PocketPC devices is planned.
After signing up to an additional service, your phone can provide in-car style GPS navigation. You’ll need to add a GPS adapter to your phone to do this though; or be using one of Nokia’s new handsets with integrated GPS receivers -- specifically the N95, the E90 Communicator or the 6110 Navigator. Locations, saved as GPS data, can be sent to other phones through MMS, Bluetooth, e-mail or infrared connections under the system.