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NTT DoCoMo to Offer MPEG-4 Video Delivery Service Via PHS Phones

December 1, 2000 (TOKYO) -- NTT DoCoMo Inc. said Nov. 29 it will launch a new service called "M-stage visual," to deliver moving-picture content in MPEG-4 format via wireless transmission, on Dec. 8.

NTT DoCoMo's newly coming terminal

Initially, the service will only be available via a DoCoMo personal handyphone system (PHS) phone hooked up to a dedicated device called "eggy," to be priced at about 25,000 yen. The company plans to deliver moving-picture content for the third-generation IMT-2000 mobile communication service, which is due to start in Japan after May 2001.

According to NTT DoCoMo, M-stage visual will be the world's first MPEG-4 moving-picture delivery service based on wireless connectivity. Four categories of content will be available: (1) movie previews and music video clips, (2) entertainment content such as television program information, TV drama previews, astrological forecasts, and animation, (3) news and sports information, (4) lifestyle information such as weather forecasts, recipes, and restaurant and event guides. To start with, 130 different programs will be available on 46 channels.

M-stage visual will cost 200 yen a month as the basic service fee, plus usage charges of 15 yen a minute while receiving content. As most of the moving-picture content will be only three to five minutes in length, the cost per viewed program works out to between 45 yen and 75 yen. NTT DoCoMo will provide both for-fee and free-of-charge content, with the for-fee programs carrying an extra charge in addition to the service fee and usage charge.

Although audio and video streaming will be the main form of delivery, NTT DoCoMo intends to gradually extend the range of on-demand content downloadable from the Internet. Content providers will set the frame rate for receiving content according to the content type. The average rate is expected to be 4-5 frames a second, and the maximum rate will likely be 14-15 frames a second. The motion won't look as smooth as a television program.

Yet, because of the small size of the eggy display panel and the short running time of most programs, NTT DoCoMo believes that the pictures won't look too jerky or unnatural. Also, an enhancement technique can be used to increase the image quality of each frame, while reducing the frame rate to 2 or 3 frames a second. This would slow the motion, but make the moving pictures look clear, according to NTT DoCoMo.

Eggy is a compact, lightweight device that weighs 225g and measures 131mm wide by 81mm high by 39mm thick. The display is a 2-in., low-temperature polysilicon color TFT-LCD with a touch panel. Its resolution is 557 by 234 pixels.

To access M-stage visual, the subscriber must connect a PHS phone to eggy, or insert a card-type PHS called "P-in-Comp@ct" into eggy's Compact Flash-card slot.

The data transfer rate is 64kbps or 32kbps. M-stage visual is delivered via NTT DoCoMo's mopera Internet access service. In order to protect the copyright, the moving-picture content will be available only via an eggy device, and cannot be delivered to a personal computer.

Also, eggy can be used as a mobile information device. In addition to e-mail, browser and address book functions, it has a 350,000-pixel progressive CCD camera for shooting still and moving pictures. Captured images can be entered as portraits in an address book, or attached to e-mail messages.

It's possible to record images on a memory card inserted in eggy's Compact Flash-card slot. To compose an e-mail, an individual uses the on-screen keyboard and the supplied stylus to write the message text. The browser supports Web pages (unofficial sites for i-mode) written in compact HTML.

A special lithium-ion battery or an AC adapter can be used as the power source. The battery provides 60 to 70 minutes of continuous online operation, 70 minutes of continuous display of still or moving pictures, or 65 minutes of continuous shooting of moving images. Up to 140 still shots can be taken in succession.

Related story:
Video Viewer Works with IMT-2000 Cell Phones

(BizTech News Dept.)

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