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Coming to a device near you: mobile TV

Posted By David Benovadia On January 24, 2012 @ 12:00 am In Mobile | 1 Comment

Israel’s Siano will debut its proven technology for streaming television to mobile devices, changing the way America watches its favorite shows.

Siano CEO Alon Ironi.

Today, when you can take all your communication and entertainment options with you anywhere and everywhere, it’s odd that in the United States, Canada and Europe you can’t stream live television to cell phones and portable devices. That is about to change.

Israel’s Siano, which has been enabling streaming cell phone TV in the Far East for years, will now bring the experience to North America. Its technology powers a slew of devices that allow users on the move to tune in to their favorite programs.

Siano is one of those silent Israeli success stories, a company that has had a major impact on its field. The company started in 2004, with the intention of providing solutions for mobile digital TV (MDTV).

“We’re a fabless semiconductor company that provides chips and software modules with a focus on mobile TV, for devices including cell phones, television for cars, navigation devices and other handheld devices,” says Siano CEO Alon Ironi. “We believe there’s a lot of demand for mobile TV, and we believe our technology will help give MDTV a major push in the US in 2012.”

Demand growing daily

If Siano’s experience in the Far East is a harbinger of things to come, then expect Americans to take to streaming TV in a major way.

Siano provides a custom solution for streaming TV to China Mobile, the world’s largest cell phone service provider, with 600 million subscribers, and has offices in China, South Korea, and Taiwan as well as in Brazil and Argentina. Siano’s chips and software are embedded in handsets and other devices sold in these and other countries, satisfying a demand that seems to grow daily.

While streaming TV could, theoretically, be broadcast over the 3G or 4G cell network the way Internet radio or Youtube videos are, streaming TV is a bandwidth hog. As a result, cell phone service providers and content providers (networks and local TV stations) broadcast their programs using special mobile video standards. Six such standards are currently in use, depending on country or region, which according to Ironi is problematic for broadcasters, manufacturers and customers alike.

“Here at Siano, we’ve been able to turn it to our advantage. We are the only company making chips for all the standards, as well as the only manufacturer of multi-standard chips – which manufacturers find very useful, because they can just use one chip for all the markets they sell in without having to come out with different editions of the same product. In either case, we try to make the chips as affordable as possible for manufacturers,” Ironi says.

The company has worked with many Chinese handset manufacturers and designers in the local market, and increasingly for export markets as well. But while mobile TV in China is well developed, it’s just getting started in the US. After much deliberation, the US Federal Communications Commission has chosen a standard called ATSC-M/H. At the January 10-13 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Siano will debut the devices that work with this new standard.

“We will be presenting several devices, along with partners, that will include a chip that can receive MDTV broadcasts,” he says. The first ones will be add-on products for smart phones.

Watch TV anywhere

Siano is also rolling out a breakthrough technology called RallyTV. The product delivers high-quality, in-vehicle DTV content to mobile devices in locations covered by broadcast TV networks, without the need for special broadcast TV-enabled devices. The unique technology can support many users at once and does not require setup or installation, making it ideal for usage on public and private transport. RallyTV will enable car manufacturers, taxis and car rental agencies to significantly increase their customer service offerings.

Siano, headquartered in Netanya, has 100 employees worldwide – 65 in the main office, and the others in China (where the company has three offices), South Korea, Taiwan, Argentina and the US. Siano works closely with global tier-1 PC and mobile device makers such as Dell, Motorola, Samsung, LG, ZTE and Huawei. Its chipsets power end-user devices across Asia, Europe and Latin America. It has established partnerships with leading US broadcasters NBC and Fox, GLOBO in Latin America and CCTV in China.

Ironi was formerly CEO of Emblaze Semiconductor, and was responsible for overall engineering activity at Zoran, where he developed its popular camera-on-a-chip. He came to Siano with 15 years of experience in fabless IC management, product roadmap definition and strategy, SoC architecture and design.

“One thing I learned over the years from speaking to customers, especially in Japan and Korea, is that mobile TV has a great deal of potential,” Ironi says. “It took us awhile to convince investors that this technology had a future. In 2004, the idea of a smartphone powerful enough to enable TV broadcasts was unheard of. But we were convinced of the vision, which became the reality,” Ironi adds, “and today we are the leading company in the field of MDTV.”

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