Qualcomm tunes into mobile multimedia

Qualcomm has unveiled a third-generation mobile data network infrastructure claimed to deliver streaming video to mobile phones...

Qualcomm has unveiled a third-generation mobile data network infrastructure claimed to deliver streaming video to mobile phones that makes the experience of selecting content similar to channel-surfing on a TV.

The MediaFlo Content Distribution System product and service offering was just one piece in a set of technologies the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) pioneer touted as the answer to consumers' mobile multimedia needs.

They included the high-speed CDMA2000 1xEV-DO network and enhancements to that technology for efficiently sending out content, as well as new and future Qualcomm processors with multimedia power.

On the phone, MediaFlo users can scroll through a listing of video clips, audio clips, live streaming programming and other multimedia selections, and sample each one by clicking on it. The interface is designed to make it easier and quicker for users to decide if they want to see content, said Paul Jacobs, group president of Qualcomm's wireless and Internet group.

MediaFlo also has a server component that allows service providers to bring in multimedia content in many different forms and distribute it from one place to another. It is not locked in to certain formats or codecs but can distribute any kind of data the mobile operator wants to provide.

MediaFlo is available now for service-provider deployment and can run on any packet data network, including existing CDMA2000 1x systems, but is designed to take advantage of EV-DO.

An enhanced version of EV-DO, called Revision A, boosts the network's top speed to a maximum of 3.1Mbps downstream and 1.8Mbps upstream from the user. It also includes a multicast capability.

This technology, called Gold Multicast, lets service providers send one copy of a piece of content to many handsets at once, rather than sending many copies individually. This makes better use of the network's capacity when supplying content that a lot of users want. Carriers also can send content to individuals if only a few want that particular channel or if a user missed an earlier multicast because the phone was turned off.

MediaFlo also has a client-caching function so carriers can perform multicasts when the network is not in heavy use and users can enjoy that content later.

Qualcomm also gave a glimpse of new and upcoming generations of processors designed to play that multimedia content. The MSM6550, which forms the basis of EV-DO handsets due in the middle of this year, can support a phone with a two-megapixel to four-megapixel digital camera and video at 30 frames per second using the videoconference-quality Common Intermediate Format, said Sanjay Jha, Qualcomm's executive vice president and president of Qualcomm CDMA technologies.

That chip, which runs at about 250MHz, will give way next year to approximately 500MHz processors that can support a four-megapixel to six-megapixel camera and VGA (Video Graphics Array) video at 30 frames per second.

"Thirty frames per second VGA is your television," Jha said. "You will have a camcorder in your phone." The high capacity of EV-DO will mean subscribers can send the pictures and video they capture over the network easily, he added.

Qualcomm and ATI Technologies also announced a strategic collaboration to create a next-generation wireless three-dimensional (3D) gaming platform. The deal will bring ATI's ImageOn graphics architecture into Qualcomm's MSM platform.

Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service

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