European fears rise in Japan's video bid

European fears rise in Japan’s video bid
Japan third generation mobile moves are ‘threat’ to Europe. Roy Rubenstein. Japan looks set to steal a march on Europe in the development of mobile video phones. Since Japan’s third generation mobile services (IMT-2000) – based on wideband code division access (W-CDMA) – will be compatible with Europe’s UMTS services, Japanese developed video handsets will also be suitable for use in Europe. European third generation UMTS services are due to start in 2001, a year later than Japan’s, so European suppliers accept that Japanese manufacturers will be in a strong position in the market for next generation handsets. “Whereas the US led with first generation wireless phones (AMPS) and Europe with second generation GSM, Japan is looking to lead with the third generation IMT-2000,” said an industry observer. “However, Europe is fully aware of the threat.” Matsushita Electric Industrial is developing an MPEG-4 core for a mobile video handset available from 2000, once third generation mobile phone services begin in Japan. Matsushita and NEC have also been selected for an IMT-2000 handset trial being undertaken by Japanese phone operator NTT Docomo. Texas Instruments, which claims to have its DSPs in over half of all GSM handsets, is acutely aware of the importance of video and the MPEG-4 audio visual standard for mobile phones. “Video is the next medium for cellular,” said Eric Dewannain, TI’s semiconductor’s group European multimedia programme manager. He admitted that the advent of IMT-2000 places Japanese firms on an equal footing with European. This is also the view of UK consultancy The Technology Partnership (TTP). “The power base is definitely shifting East,” said TTP’s Dr Tony Milbourn, who added. “Don’t underestimate the position of European firms.” TI’s Dewannain confirmed that the company was undertaking MPEG-4 simulation work but would not be drawn on when its expects to have MPEG-4 silicon. Will it have silicon for the Japanese market by 2000? “I cannot say,” he said. Other companies in Europe undertaking R&D work on video coding algorithms for handsets include Siemens and Bosch. However neither has revealed timescales for any video coding hardware.

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