AT&T taps MediaFlo for mobile TV

AT&T will become the second major carrier to use Qualcomm's MediaFlo network and technology to deliver mobile television.

BARCELONA, Spain--AT&T will use Qualcomm's MediaFlo mobile TV network to deliver live television and video clips to its Cingular Wireless subscribers, the carrier said Monday.

AT&T expects to offer the service by the end of 2007, the company said.

AT&T is now the second major carrier to announce plans to use MediaFlo. Verizon Wireless announced more than a year ago it would use the network. In January, it launched V Cast TV, the first mobile television service to use MediaFlo.

Sprint Nextel, which also offers a video service over its 3G cellular network, has been testing MediaFlo since last year, a company representative said. But Sprint has not announced whether it plans to offer a live TV broadcast service to its subscribers using MediaFlo.

Even though mobile operators such as Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless have spent billions of dollars over the last few years building 3G wireless networks to deliver new services such as video, these 3G networks are inadequate for delivering high volumes of live TV programming because they are designed to deliver services in a "unicast" fashion.

This means content is delivered to each individual subscriber when it is requested. By contrast, MediaFlo is a dedicated network that broadcasts video to all viewers at once, just as a traditional broadcast television network operates.

Mobile handset maker Nokia also announced Monday its new N77 multimedia handset, which allows people to watch live, streaming video. The handset uses DVB-H (digital video broadcasting--handheld), a standard for broadcast mobile TV that competes with MediaFlo.

DVB-H is gaining support in Europe, while MediaFlo is gaining steam in the U.S. In September, Motorola and Nokia announced they would work together to promote DVB-H and eventually make their relevant hardware interoperate.

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