Mobile Phones Could Go HD as Early as 2009

May 19, 2008
Shinya Saeki, Nikkei Electronics
The HDTV handset prototyped by NVIDIA of the US
The HDTV handset prototyped by NVIDIA of the US
[Click to enlarge image]

Mobile phone component manufacturers are now showing a growing interest in HD video processing, which is on the verge of becoming a standard capability of TVs, HDD recorders and camcorders.

Several overseas semiconductor manufacturers have already announced their application processors for HDTV processing. Broadcom Corp announced it in October 2007, so did NVIDIA Corp and Texas Instruments Inc (TI) in February 2008. All these manufacturers' processors can encode and decode 1280 x 720 resolution HD video at 30fps.

In Japan, Renesas Technology Corp is currently developing a processor for 1920 x 1080 full HDTV. Mobile phones employing such processors "will be launched to the market within 2009 if all goes smoothly," Broadcom said.

The challenge that semiconductor manufacturers face when commercializing HDTV processors is the power required for codec processing. A processor must process HDTV for several hours using a 1,000mAh or smaller capacity Li-ion secondary battery in mobile phones.

The aforementioned manufacturers cut power consumption by making their LSI chips allot most part of processing to the dedicated hardware. Broadcom's product only uses 450mW for encoding HDTV, for example.

Use in conjunction with TVs via HDMI

Given the limited screen sizes, HDTV-compatible mobile phones will support connectivity with TVs and other digital devices. HD video shot with mobile phones can be viewed with large displays, for example.

To enable to connect mobile phones with devices including TVs, a number of manufacturers are recently introducing HDMI interfaces to mobile phones.

The challenge they are facing now is the connector size. In the "HDMI 1.3" version, "Type C," which downsized the previous standard "Type A" connector, is defined. Yet, "We must make the connector about half as big as current Type C" to incorporate it to mobile phones, said an engineer from an HDMI promoting manufacturer.

The HDMI promoting manufacturers group is currently discussing the shape of the connector and the number of pins, having set up a project exclusively for mobile phone applications. Aside from this move, Silicon Image Inc of the US is proposing its proprietary "MHL (mobile high-definition link)" compact HDMI specification. An HDMI format targeting mobile phones is likely to be formulated as early as 2009.