Consumers in the United Kingdom can soon join others across Europe and Asia who are able to view television beamed to their cell phones.
Virgin Mobile, a unit of NTL, will launch on Oct. 1 the country’s first broadcast mobile TV and radio service, based on BT Group’s new BT Movio platform, the companies announced Thursday.
The service will initially offer four programs: BBC 1, ITV1, a cut-down version of Channel 4 for mobile phones, and Channel 4’s E4 entertainment channel. Customers on a Virgin Mobile contract of 25 pounds (US$47) or more per month will receive the service free, while others can purchase it for 5 pounds per month. High Tech Computer (HTC) is providing the first phone for viewing the service, the Lobster 700, for 199 pounds.
The U.K. launch comes as manufacturers and network operators in Europe battle over a standard for broadcast mobile TV services.
Europe’s first service, based on a standard called terrestrial-digital multimedia broadcasting (T-DMB), was launched commercially at the start of the World Cup soccer tournament in June by mobile phone service reseller Debitel and Mobiles Fernsehen Deutschland.
But Germany’s four cellular operators back a rival standard, digital video broadcast-handset (DVB-H), which they claim offers more channels and better quality.
The availability of spectrum was the main reason that German state broadcasting authorities gave the green light for T-DMB, based on the digital audio broadcasting (DAB) standard, ahead of DVB-H.
The situation in the United Kingdom is similar. DAB is the only broadcast spectrum currently available to mobile operators there. BT’s mobile TV platform, BT Movio, is something of a novelty, blending DAB with IP technology. It’s one of two standards that support mobile TV on DAB spectrum: DAB-IP and T-DMB.
BT selected DAB-IP not only because of DAB’s available spectrum, but also because of its flexibility, according to a BT document. The IP layer in DAB is common to the IP used in other technologies, such as the rival broadcast system DVB-H and systems that stream TV including third-generation (3G) cellular broadband, Wi-Fi and WiMax, according to the document. This means that DAB-IP back-end systems, which encode, manage and deliver content, can be reused for any IP-carrying bearer—whether broadcast T-DMB or streamed 3G.
With the continuing debate around standards, BT believes the eventual winner will be a combination of standards and technologies. With BT Movio, the U.K. operator has designed a platform intended to offer a consistent service over new broadcast standards as they evolve and come to market, it said.
The BT Movio platform also uses digital rights management technology from Microsoft.
-John Blau, IDG News Service (Dusseldorf Bureau)
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