By GARY GENTILE
Verizon Wireless customers will soon be able to watch live TV over a network constructed by Qualcomm Inc.
Verizon will launch its new service, dubbed V Cast Mobile TV, sometime in the first quarter, the company said Sunday at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Verizon said it would release details on pricing and availability closer to the launch of the service.
Verizon also announced an upgrade to its FIOS digital television service that will let users use their cell phone to program their home digital video recorders, change parental controls and perform other functions.
Many of the channels on the V Cast service will be live feeds from major broadcast partners, including NBC, CBS and Fox. Recorded full-length programs will also be offered, such as episodes of late-night talk shows.
Two handsets will be available at launch - one from Samsung and another from LG. More handsets and TV channels are expected to be added by year's end.
Verizon is the first wireless carrier use the network created by Qualcomm Inc. The MediaFLO system broadcasts signals to mobile phones over a different portion of the wireless spectrum than cellular calls and data services.
The phones have dedicated TV keys that launch the service. An antenna can be extended to strengthen the signal.
In a demonstration Sunday, the signals were strong and the picture quality sharp, without delays or hiccups caused by buffering data as often happens with video carried over current wireless networks.
The service comes with a program guide and customers can "channel surf" using the phone's keypad. The screens on the phones are about 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) diagonally.
The live programming will be available in U.S. East coast and West coast feeds. Local programming might be added later, said John Stratton, Verizon's vice president and chief marketing officer. Parental controls are included to block objectionable programs.
The same advertising that appears on the live feed will also appear on the V Cast service, the company said.
"We think that potentially the market is very large for this," Verizon president and chief operating officer Denny Strigl told The Associated Press. The market will grow over the next two years, he said.
"We think the advantage we have here is that we are first to market and it is something that will not degrade the existing network that we have."
Samsung Electronics Co. also said Sunday it was working on technology that will become available sometime in 2009, after U.S. broadcasters make the switch to digital TV signals.
The system, called Advanced-VSB, is designed to strengthen the digital signal sent from local broadcast stations so that mobile receivers can lock into it, even if moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, or in cities where buildings and other objects often interfere with the signal.
The system would allow a wide range of mobile TV applications, such as signals sent to a handheld device or a laptop computer, using the same broadcast signal sent to television sets.
Verizon Wireless is a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.