Mobile Multimedia : 3G and Beyond

- P N Chopra



With the increased mobility in our life style, the need to provide communication and broadcasting services on the move in a vehicle or at different temporal locations is becoming very important. The mobile subscriber lines in India as we know at 300 million have over taken the land lines which stand at a much lower figure. It is well recognized that while the mobile cellular systems are very attractive for voice, data and interactive services, they have limitations in meeting the requirements of common multimedia services to a large number of users simultaneously.


            The world however is passing through the age of ‘Multimedia’; there is a huge potential market of approximately 2 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide for such service today. With very high mobility support, users can be reached almost everywhere. Whether it is, twisted copper wire, optical fibre cable, cellular mobile network, mobile broadcasting, direct satellite broadcasting or any other form of internet, - everywhere, the trend is ‘Triple Play’ i.e. delivery of all the three components of content- voice, video and data. Multimedia age is in fact poised to completely blur the boundaries of different media/carriages as far as handling of this ‘multimedia’ is concerned.


The modern trend is towards ‘Mobile Multimedia’. The introduction of 3G services in the country has provided another avenue to the Mobile Multimedia. Third-generation services allow voice, data and video to be transmitted at high speeds to wireless devices, and are seen as the next growth driver for telecoms firms in India .The killer application on cell phones until now has been voice services. That could change as new services with the convergence of telephone, television and Computer which has given rise to a host of bundled applications. 3G phone services enable high-speed data access allowing users to surf the Internet or also download content  including music and video, at speeds faster than those supported by current cellular technologies. Phone networks starting on this data-rich technology will enable use of bandwidth-intensive applications on mobile phones.


The access to 3G networks would allow organizations to save on training and travel costs. For example, all training can happen remotely, rather than in class rooms and the cost of travel can get reduced significantly as video conferencing picks up. These kind of benefits far out weigh the kind of investments that people are going to make now for the new options.


The other benefit of 3G would be that a typical Indian, who understands the audio- visual medium much more than the literate population, can find solutions to his problems in visual depictions. MTNL and BSNL have introduced 3G services at selected places in the country and other telecom players will also introduce such new services after DoT auctions the Spectrum for 3G services in the near future.


Multiple standards in wireline and wireless Broadband communication networks are evolving. Internet TV is being used for delivery of streaming video using the world wide web-internet ; IPTV serves  similar streaming video in a closed network using internet protocol; TDtv has evolved as a Time Division(TD) version of CDMA to cater to interactive multimedia services by the cellular mobile operators to mobile users; MXtv is another innovation where the streaming video or the multimedia services are delivered in an interactive way to the mobile users in a very wide area using part BW of the WiMax network. These are some of the outcomes of this fast changing evolution. In the broadcast field-  Mobile TV broadcasting following standards like – DVB-H;  DVB-SH; MediaFLO;  Moba-Ho (ISDB); etc. are coming up fast in different parts of the world.


            Telcos; Cable operators; Cellular Mobile operators; Broadcasters- everyone is in  the   process  of choosing appropriate technologies for this multimedia delivery project. Each one of them is trying to expand their domain by adding the multimedia delivery function to particular sections of the users. While doing so they are keeping in mind to ensure the superior service features- in terms of types of content, QOS, Ease of operation and operational features, Cost of receiving system and above all the cost of services. All these techno-economic optimizations are going on for various multimedia delivery systems to gain  market acceptance.

Since this subject will dominate the field of ICT for the coming decades, it is of prime importance to constantly coming decades, it is of prime importance to constantly review the subject and keep the sector updated with the current status of different systems and players in this game.

Let us review the current scenario in the field of Mobile Multimedia.

All mobile multimedia systems are basically wireless.


If we talk about the Broadcast route, the following standards dominate the field:-                    

DVB-H                        Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld

DVB-SH                      Digital Video Broadcasting- Satellite-, Handheld

ISDB-T & ISDB-S       Terrestrial & Satellite    ‘Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting 

T-DMB & S-DMB       Terrestrial & Satellite -Digital Multimedia Broadcasting

Media FLO-‘Media Forward Link Only’-system


With these broadcasting systems we can have ‘Mobile Multimedia’ services with interactivity in real time.


            The Telecom based ‘Mobile Multimedia’ service systems will include- GPRS /EDGE /3G and WiMAX systems including the latest standards evolved out of these basic systems, like-TDtv, MXtv, etc.


            The GSM mobile hand set on 2G technology is going to be upgraded to 2.5G and 3G Wireless. With the existing 2G Wireless, most of the current digital mobile phones, have features which include:- Phone calls, Voice mail and  simple E-mail messages.


            Let us see in brief the different wireless technologies since first generation for migration towards 3G and beyond. The technical issues required to be  explored includes 1G/2G systems, Network architecture of GSM/CDMA including co-existence of GSM/CDMA, Deployment scenario of CDMA/GSM in India, Path for migration to 3G and beyond for CDMA/GSM  and the related trends. The development of fixed network in broadband era which may also become a potential driver for 4G to balance data network comparable to ISND/PSTN.


These technologies can be briefly described:


2. G Wireless: This 2G system operates at a speed of 10Kbps, takes approximately 6-9  minutes to download a 3 minutes MP3 song.


2.5G Wireless: The best technology now widely available- Features-include: phone-calls/fax-Voicemail—Send/receive-large-email-messages-Web-browsings-Navigation/maps-News,updates-TV,streaming-Electronic agenda meeting reminder-Speed: 144 kb/sec-2mb/sec. The time taken to download a 3min MP3 song is therefore much less. Web browsing; Navigation/maps; News updates at a speed of  64-144kb/sec.


3G System Capabilities-However the 3G Wireless technology which is being introduced now combines a mobile phone, laptop PC and a TV. This has features which  include:- Phone-calls/fax; Global roaming; Send/receive large email messages; High-speed Web- Navigation/maps; Videoconferencing; TV streaming; Electronic agenda; Meeting reminder; etc.  The 3G System when introduced will have capabilities to support- Circuit and Packet data at high bit rates; Interoperability and roaming; Common billing/user profiles and also capabilty to support circuit and packet data at high bit rates,Capability to determine geographic position of mobiles and report it to both the network and the mobile terminal support of multimedia services/capabilities.


4G Wireless- However this future 4G technology when introduced at a later stage will have entirely ‘Packet-Switched Networks’, where all network elements will be digital. With higher bandwidth(upto100Mbps) to provide multimedia services at lower cost , it will also provide tight network security.



            With the introduction of new multimedia service in the country a number of sociological problems may emerge which will have to be kept in view. Such services will have benefits as well as evil effects on the society. We have witnessed these social-issues in the case of internet, where easy access to the net has brought with it a large number of social issues- good and evil effects. Along with the technical and commercial merits of ‘Mobile Multimedia’ it imperative to pay equal attention to such probable evil social effects; so that this new technology grows to change the society without any evil effect.