PARIS — A meeting this week in Beijing is being staged by promoters of the Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) standard who have invested heavily in China and are now seeking to drum up market volume and a return on their investment after years of DAB technology development.
The World DAB Forum is staging an international DAB conference in the Chinese capital on April 20-21.
Although the DAB-based digital radio market is taking off in the U.K., skeptics note that the standard still remains U.K.-centric. The DAB group is hoping it will catch on in China via mobile TV applications.
Two different mobile TV specs have already emerged within the family of DAB standards: Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) and DAB-IP.
Last December, South Korea rolled out the first commercial mobile TV broadcast services based on the Terrestrial-DMB standard. Still, many chip vendors and handset manufacturers acknowledged they are developing DMB solutions that target the Chinese market.
Bhaskar Banerjee, strategic business manager at Analog Devices Inc., said, "We've been looking hard at the DAB market because we know that DMB will be much bigger than DAB." ADI is rolling out its Blackfin DSP core-based T-DMB solution this year.
For now, chip companies want design wins in Korean mobile TV handsets because they know Korean cellphone makers will start exporting them soon. Korean phones are expected to initially dominate the Chinese T-DMB market. Samsung Electronics has agreed to supply 500,000 DMB phones to two major Chinese DMB operators, according to the World DAB Forum.
DAB technology developers in the U.K., including RadioScape Ltd. and Frontier Silicon, are also helping Chinese broadcasters build their DMB infrastructure. RadioScape has been quietly working with Chinese broadcasters over the last two years to advance DMB. John Hall, CEO of infrastructure and receiver developer RadioScape (London), said it has systems installed at nine locations, including Beijing Jolon Digital Media Broadcasting, Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group and Guangdong Yue Guang Digital Multimedia Broadcasting.
Frontier Silicon announced an alliance on Tuesday (April 18) with Factum Electronics, a supplier of head-end solutions for DAB and T-DMB, to supply Chinese broadcasters with broadcast solutions for mobile TV and digital radio.
How soon and how fast Chinese consumers embrace DMB, however, remains unclear.
It is still unclear if China is committed to T-DMB for mobile TV broadcasts. Instead, different Chinese provinces and cities appeared to be making ad hoc decisions. Some have been more eager to dabble in DMB than others.
The World DAB Forum noted that China is conducting DMB trials as well as commercial rollouts. The group said Guangdong Mobile Television Media plans to launch commercial DMB services in May. Beijing Jolon Digital Media Broadcasting Co.'s also plans to introduce commercial services in May with coverage reaching as many as 15 million viewers. Jolon has also been working with manufacturers Blaupunkt, Lenovo and JVC to develop DAB/DMB receivers.