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Tech Roundup: Verizon Goes MediaFLO

Mobile TV finally arrives in the U.S. -- at least in the Midwest. Also, WiMax gets smaller, WiBro gets wider, and Star Trek-style communicator badges go cellular.

Switched-on wireless: Verizon Wireless has launched the first mobile TV service in the U.S. with eight channels of 24-hour broadcasting in 20 markets across the country.

The service costs $15 a month for a standlone service or $25 when bundled with Verizon's V Cast multimedia entertainment offerings. The service requires a separate $200 Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) handset that supports Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s MediaFLO technology, which is being used by Verizon to broadcast the wireless TV shows.

The eight 24-hour channels offered at launch are CBS Mobile, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox Mobile, MTV, NBC 2Go, NBC News 2Go, and Nickelodeon. Initial markets for mobile TV include Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Seattle.

MediaFLO is Qualcomm's initative to push mobile TV in the U.S. In 2005, the CDMA pioneer announced that it would build out a 3G multicast Forward Link Only (FLO) network designed specifically for TV broadcasting. (See Mobile TV Faces Tech Battle.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) (formerly Cingular) has also signed on to use the Qualcomm network in the U.S.

Samsung gets carded: Samsung is further pushing its edge in the mobile WiMax arena with new PC cards for WiBro networks in its domestic South Korea market. The cards give a taste of what Samsung will likely initally provide Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) with, as that operator starts to switch on commercial mobile WiMax services in the U.S. (See Sprint: Profits Up, Subs Stall.) Samsung's latest WiBro demonstrations have yielded data download speeds of over 30 Mbit/s, according to local media reports. The WiBro cards use chips from Beceem Communications Inc. and antennae from SkyCross Inc. (See Beceem Beams With Samsung Win.)

Is there a doctor in the house? Vocera Communications Inc. is working with Sprint to extend its communicator-style badges, which are very popular in the healthcare industry, from WiFi networks to cellular networks.

This will allow doctors, clinicians, and nurses who travel outside their WiFi networks to remain connected to the Vocera system through Sprint and Nextel phones. This means that paramedics accompanying an accident victim in an ambulance could use the walkie-talkie feature on a Nextel phone to speak directly with the emergency room staff to prepare them for the arriving patient.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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