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Preview: Mobile World Congress
This year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will play host to numerous streaming technology demonstrations, including several that showcase HD video.
Thurs., Feb. 12, by Tim Siglin

A few weeks ago, StreamingMedia.com published an article I'd written as an overview of the 2008 mobile handset space, as it relates to streaming.

When I wrote the article back in November, I was thinking ahead to what we might see in 2009. I mentioned that mobile handsets had a high likelihood of becoming high-definition video delivery devices in 2009.

What got me thinking along those lines was the fact that several technologies were merging together: Given the speed increases of HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) and the impending move to LTE (Long Term Evolution) for mobile service providers, and the addition of very small but very high resolution external screen connectors (such as the Mini DisplayPort available on Apple's new unibody MacBooks, now part of the DisplayPort standard), it seemed natural to extrapolate that HD content may be delivered to the handset but viewed externally.

While there aren't any pre-announcements coming out of next week's Mobile World Congress that indicate both of my conjectures are accurate, the number of announcements of HD streaming demonstrations to be shown at the event are increasing.

On2, for instance, announced that it would unveil new hardware design solutions for mobile and multimedia chip-set manufacturers and demonstrate some of its latest mobile video software implementations. Hantro, a company purchased by On2 last year that focuses on H.264 embedded implementations, will be showing its RTL designs enabling real time encoding of 720P HD video for mobile and handheld devices, which could allow real-time encoding and transmission of HD content from the handset.

Nortel, long a player in the wireline telephony equipment space, has said it will host a "live air LTE network at Mobile World Congress that will power the LTE demonstrations of T-Mobile and LG Electronics." Calling it "LTE in Real Life," Nortel plans to use the demonstrations to validate the use of LTE speeds to "enhance video surveillance capabilities, stream HD video to mobile devices, and support interactive mobile applications like multi-player gaming and video-conferencing."

Comsys, a signal processing company that creates the type of baseband processors for mobile devices that On2's Hantro targets, is also going to demonstrate a mobile FPGA-based LTE chipset running video that "will stream in high-definition format supporting 720p and 1080p full HD running over a LTE CAT4 data channel on a PHY for UE running on Comsys Mobile’s development platform." Put into plain English, Comsys will use a wideband communications tester based on a particular 3GPP standard release to emulate LTE transmissions of high-definition content. The interesting thing here, though, is that Comsys will be demonstrating full HD (1080p) alongside the 720p solutions demonstrated by the others.

Mobile World Congress was also to be the event that spanned the end of the U.S. television market's analog era and the beginning of the digital era, but the recent extension of the analog switchover legislation for US television stations now postpones the February 17 until June 12. Not to be confused with a switch to high-definition digital content, as some have reported, the switchover of analog standard definition television to a digital broadcast will free up spectrum that may provide some long-term benefit and increased speeds for mobile data providers.

Still the lack of full transition isn't stopping innovation from occurring on the mobile handset, where recent implementation of DVB-H and the rollout of rich internet applications on mobile devices, based around Flash, Silverlight, and the new JavaFX mobile. Sun announced final availability of JavaFX Mobile today, with promised adoption from a few major mobile service providers, including Orange, Sprint, and even technology providers such as MobiTV.

"We are very pleased with the direction of the JavaFX platform," said Cedric Fernandes, vice president, technology at MobiTV. "JavaFX really allows us to reinforce our core mobile video streaming value proposition . . . to bring an optimized media experience to market."

Mobile World Congress will be held in Barcelona, Spain, from February 15-19, 2008, where I'll be keeping my eye open for the ultimate handheld streaming DVR.