Panelists talk mobile TV

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BARCELONA, Spain -- The Mobile World Congress turned its attention to mobile TV on Tuesday as panelists on two roundtables addressed the challenges of a smooth user experience.

Joel Espelien, vp strategic relationship at PacketVideo, wowed the crowd at the FLO Forum panel on mobile TV with the company's newly patented pocket-size mobile broadcast receiver that turns WiFi-enabled phones and MP3 players into mobile TVs.

"One thing we've found is that technology is great, but there is a problem with compelling devices that allow mobile TV," Espelien said as he brandished his off-the-shelf iPhone screening a TV show. "This allows any phone to offer mobile TV."

The tiny receiver uses specific protocols to offer the TV signal to any device via Bluetooth or WiFi and provides secure access to premium channels. The receiver will sell this year for some 99 euros as a cell phone accessory and be compatible with mobile broadcast standards including DVB-H and MediaFlo, according to Espelien.

Other panelists trumpeted their company's strides in interactivity on the TV screen, asserting that the cell phone is fundamentally a tool of communication and that mobile TV should tap into that strength.

"You should be able to watch a program while utilizing the phone functions. This is about the user experience," said Claus Darnstadt, marketing director of Convisual.

Convisual, which said Endemol, MTV Networks and Coca-Cola are using its interactive technology, touted a user experience that seamlessly integrates chatting, voting and other interactive features with watching mobile TV.

Industry insiders agreed that consumer needs are key to providing a satisfying experience, pointing to figures that show users watching TV on handsets at home, work and school -- not just during commutes.

Bigger pixels use more battery and memory, but panelists concurred that the average of one hour of TV-watching on mobile phones falls well within the standard battery limits.

"The mobile TV market is in its infancy still. We expect broadcast capability will become an expected feature on a handset, like a camera is now," said Vinod Valloppillil of Roundbox.

Even so, focus was clearly on how to push the sector along quickly to keep up with consumer demand.

"Early trials did the sector a disservice by offering 10 channels, up and down and volume control," Espelien said. "I don't watch TV like that at home. Don't give me TV circa 1985 on my mobile phone."
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