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Video and more coming soon to a cell near you

Aug 13, 2001  •  Post A Comment

You just moved to a new town and are looking for a house. You see a home for sale, pull over and call up a video of the house’s interior on your cellphone.
This may sound like something from “The Jetsons,” but if PacketVideo has its way, such a scenario could be a reality soon. The San Diego-based company sits squarely at the hub of the next-generation wireless streaming movement with software that allows for streaming video on mobile devices.
Launched in 1998, PacketVideo’s technology is based on MPEG-4 standards and can operate with all cellular infrastructures. The technology allows users to receive content such as news highlights, movie clips, video mail and messages on a cellphone, said Vern Stevenson, vice president of corporate development for the company.
The technology platform consists of three parts-the PV author, which encodes the content, the PV server, which controls and streams the multimedia over a wireless network, and the PV player, which allows multimedia to play on a mobile device.
There are currently 45 trials of the technology being deployed worldwide. Mr. Stevenson expects to see some deployments on cellphones and pocket PCs in Europe and Asia in the next six months, with limited U.S. deployment in eight to 12 months.
Offering rich media over wireless devices is a natural evolution, he said. “Just like Internet usage was very small when it was just text, and it has grown over time with rich media and graphics, our platform will do the same,” he said.
Others aren’t so sure. The U.S. market may not be ready for this type of technology, said Jarvis Mak, an analyst with Nielsen//NetRatings in New York. As of June 2001, 38.5 percent of the U.S. population had a cellular phone, but only 19 percent of those had the ability to access the Internet from it, he said. Of the Internet-capable phone users, only 27 percent had actually accessed the Internet during the past 30 days, which translates into 2 percent of the U.S. population who accessed the Internet via a cellphone in the past month. “My sentiment is that it’s still early for the U.S.,” he said.
Texas Instruments, on the other hand, predicts the industry is about to witness a sea change in the way customers use mobile phones. Bandwidth for wireless technology should increase from the current 9.6 to 14.4 Kbps average range to up to 118 Kbps within a year, said Jeff Wender, OMAP platform marketing manager for Texas Instruments in Dallas. OMAP is Texas Instruments’ processing platform that enables wireless applications and is being used by PacketVideo. Greater bandwidth should allow for mobile messaging, multimedia and the delivery of images, such as traffic reports, over wireless devices, he said. He expects widespread adoption of the technology will begin in Europe and Asia in 2002 and in the United States in 2003.
In addition to Texas Instruments, PacketVideo has aligned with a number of other partners. Its partners include content companies ABC News, Sony Pictures and Comedy Central; wireless carriers or infrastructure companies Sprint PCS, Telefonica and Siemens; device manufacturers Casio, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, which make pocket PCs, and Motorola and Sanyo, which make wireless handsets; and chip makers Intel and Texas Instruments. “The biggest challenge has been to have a reach that is global across all of the value chain,” Mr. Stevenson said.
To do that, PacketVideo has opened 11 offices around the world and employs about 300 people-many of them charged with developing relationships with partner companies. In addition, the company forged a distribution agreement with Siemens Information and Communication Mobile in Munich, Germany, this summer. Under the agreement, Siemens will offer services based on PacketVideo technology to mobile operators and has also signed up for 20 trials with such companies to test the service on Siemens’ networks.