MediaFLO is undoubtedly on a European charm offensive. The impression is that between commercial trials and actual deployments, the open standard DVB-H already has the market sewn up. Qualcomm is having nothing of it; two trials have taken place with BSkyB and there are others elsewhere in Europe, though detail is scant. Then there is the FLO Forum.
Strictly speaking the FLO Forum is kept at more than an arm’s length from Qualcomm. Dr Kamil Grajski, President of the FLO Forum, likens the relationship to that between Intel and the Wifi Alliance. He says that the Forum is a contribution driver taking MediaFLO along an evolving technology roadmap. The FLO Forum was founded in July 2005, with 15 members, building to 72 by last December.
The pre-requisite logo chart of the 72 members includes some familiar names: Envivio, Harris, Mobix, Motorola, Nagravision and NDS to name but a few. There are no content providers, but Dr Grajski says it is typically for them to join once they’ve chosen the technology, with CBS and MTV both expected to be added to the line-up. Many will also be members of the DVB Group, the organisation that has led Europe’s contribution to mobile TV, initially as an extension of the familiar DVB-T standards. MediaFLO is, unlike DVB-H, proprietary, which Dr Grajski acknowledges can bring its problems. “It’s more difficult because there’s no organisation that rubber stamps what we do,” he says, but “even Qualcomm will support DVB-T as we know that it’s a multichannel world.”
The challenge, according to Dr Grajski, is to have multiple entry points into the technology. Much of the drive is coming from the conditional access vendors who are able to influence the technology requirements and can provider a buffer to Hollywood.
The line from both the FLOForum and MediaFLO is that theirs, with its spectrum saving properties, is the more efficient system in the world when everyone is after spectrum. The DVB module has countered with DVB-H2, but there is still room for debate. “Any technology innovation brings with it a lot of scepticism,” says Dr Grajski. “It’s been beneficial because it has forced the DVB to make a competitive response. Our hope is that the policy will go in technology neutral.”