By Chris Forrester
Qualcomm’s TV-onto-cellular devices operation Flo TV (AKA MediaFlo) has a foothold in Japan via a joint-venture with KDDI. The technology looks increasingly at risk if Japan selects a system developed by NTT’s DoCoMo division, which already has a massive head start in terms of deployed handsets.
A decision could be reached this week when Japan’s Communications Ministry announces its chosen solution. At a special meeting on Tuesday, the panel appeared to be leaning toward the DoCoMo camp's proposal.
The end of analogue television in Japan will open up space in the radio spectrum that will be filled by full-scale TV broadcasts to mobile phones, as well as new multimedia services, starting as early as 2012.
The Communications Ministry will select a contractor to ready the broadcasting infrastructure. The contest has been between proposals put forward by rival teams led by DoCoMo and KDDI, two of Japan's biggest mobile carriers.
Panel members as said to favour DoCoMo camp's plan excels in rate pricing, overall investment costs and other areas. The KDDI group has argued that it is proposing better technology, but the panel appears to have concluded that the decision cannot be made on technical grounds alone.
Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi had aimed to decide on a contractor last month, but the process bogged down amid objections from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and other quarters.
The ministry had to postpone selection and take the unusual step of leaving the decision up to the advisory panel, which has heard privately from each group and conducted public hearings. The ministry must still grant final approval.
Flo/MediaFlo is a competitor to Europe’s DVB-H system, and to Korea’s 1seg technology. In the USA Flo TV offers at least 14 basic TV channels, plus data. Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs is on record as saying that he intends selling the Flo division, or its spectrum. No numbers are available from the USA although analysts say the company is not doing well.
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