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European Commission makes formal push for DVB-H

After months of speculation, the European Commission (EC) has officially issued its support for the DVB-H mobile TV broadcasting standard.

In a July 18th communication, “Strengthening the Internal Market for Mobile TV,” the commission said it would encourage the use of DVB-H as the single European standard for mobile TV, including it in the European Union’s (EU) official list of standards. To push the adoption of the standard, it will establish a set of best practice and guidelines for EU member states and guidelines to follow, considering regulation mandating adoption only if “necessary and appropriate.”

According to the document, the EC favors DVB-H over such competing technologies as QUALCOMM’s MediaFLO and the Eureka 147-based DMB because it has the widest deployment in Europe, with successful commercial launches and trials in 18 countries there. It seeks a single mobile TV standard to avoid market fragmentation and to take advantage of the potentially lucrative market such technology could open up for the EU. The EC estimates that the market could be worth up to 20 billion euros by 2011.

Adoption of the standard might prove trying for the member states, however. In many countries, the spectrum DVB-H was designed to work with is still taken up by analog TV signals. Only when these signals are freed up by the transition to digital broadcasting will operators be able to use them for the purpose of DVB-H-based mobile TV broadcasting. In the UK, for example, this won’t be until 2012.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those promoting MediaFLO and DMB are not happy with the EC’s decision. MediaFLO advocacy group the FLO Forum said in a press statement that favoring one technology would “stall the advancement of a healthy European mobile TV ecosystem” by preventing market competition. It also said there were already receiver chips and transmission equipment in the market that could work with multiple standards and technologies, making a mandate of any one technology unnecessary.

In its own missive against the EC decision, World DMB, which promotes adoption of such Eureka 147-based mobile TV technologies as DMB and T-DMB, echoed similar concerns about healthy market competition. It said its members “continue to be mystified” by the EC’s support of DVB-H, especially considering that T-DMB is in use for mobile TV in 14 European countries. It also took the EC to task for “ignoring” the recommendations of a panel it formed to study the European market for mobile TV, the European Mobile Broadcasting Council (EMBC). In a report released earlier this year, the EMBC cautioned against regulating one mobile TV standard over and another, preferring to let the market decide.

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