Mobile Broadcasting Corp. (MBCO) is in the process of launching its satellite broadcasting service, with mobile receivers available in November. It will be the world's first satellite digital broadcasting service to deliver audio, video and data directly to portable, handheld devices.
The service will provide seven video channels, 30 audio channels and a data service, and users will have an initial choice of two types of receivers, one provided by Toshiba Corp. and the other by Sharp Corp. Both devices were on display at Ceatec Japan 2004 in Chiba, Japan.
The Toshiba model is a basic version, while the Sharp model provides more functions at a slightly higher price.
Toshiba's MTV-S10 will be on sale in Japan from Nov.1 for about ¥60,000 (US$545), said Takao Ninomiya, manager of MBCO's mobile product platform group, in an interview on Wednesday.
The unit is 99.8 millimeters wide, 112 mm long and 31.9 mm thick and weighs 320 grams with battery included, according to MBCO. The model has a 3.5-inch TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) screen with 320 pixels by 240 pixels resolution, and has an SD (Secure Digital) memory card slot. When running on batteries, it can play a movie or music for a maximum of 105 minutes, but this time increases to 165 minutes if users are playing contents stored on an SD memory card, the company said.
"The usual commute time for Japanese (people) is about one hour each way, so we think this is enough," said Ninomiya.
Toshiba plans a series of improvements for second-generation model that could go on sale in 2005, said Hiroshi Sawabe, senior engineer at the company's hardware engineering center.
One possible improvement will be replacing the LCD with an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen. This technology will provide brighter and clearer pictures, make the screen thinner because OLEDs don't need backlights, and reduce the next-generation player's power consumption, he said. The company is also considering combining a terrestrial digital tuner on future models as well.
Other features on Toshiba's next model are similar to those available on Sharp's first-generation model.
That model is the 4E-MB1. It will be on sale from Nov. 19 for about ¥70,000, according to Toshio Nakamura, a member of MBCO's engineering department.
The model is 86.8 mm wide, 152 mm long and 27.5 mm thick and comes with a 3.6-inch active matrix QVGA (320 pixels by 240 pixels) resolution LCD, and weighs 335 grams with its battery, according to Sharp.
The model is packed with functions that make it more like a personal multimedia center rather than a portable satellite receiver, said Hiroyuki Naganuma, a member of Sharp's planning division. As with Toshiba's version, it only supports the SD memory card, but users can also play MP3 audio and MPEG-4 video and view JPEG images, he said.
"This isn't only for MBCO, it's designed to have lots of functions for customers," Naganuma said.
MBCO's services will broadcast from a satellite on the S-band frequency at 2.6GHz. Signals are strong, so receivers don't need dishes or big antennas, according to the company.
The monthly subscription fee is ¥400, and monthly fees for optional channels range from ¥300 to ¥2,080. The company estimates that the break-even point for the service is 1.5 million users, and its aiming to sign up 2 million users in three years.
Contents include programs from Japanese public broadcaster NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) and cable channels such as MTV Japan and all-news NNN24. -- IDG News Service
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