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European Commission may push DVB-H for EU mobile TV standard

The European Commission (EC) is attempting to mandate a single mobile TV standard across the European Union (EU), and it looks like DVB-H may come out on top.

At the European Business Leaders Convention last Thursday, Viviane Reding, the EC’s commissioner for Information Society and Media, told Reuters that she favored DVB-H: “We have a European standard…so let’s go for it,” she said, referring to the fact that DVB-H is an outgrowth of Europe’s homegrown digital terrestrial television standard DVB-T.

A few days before, the “Wall Street Journal” also reported that a draft document penned by the EC indicated support for DVB-H. According to the paper, the draft states that the DVB-H standard is the “strongest contender” for use by broadcasters looking to implement mobile television services and that it is necessary to use a single standard to avoid “market fragmentation.” The draft also hinted at possible regulatory action requiring EU member countries to “encourage the use of DVB-H for the provision of terrestrial mobile television services.”

As for T-DMB and MediaFLO, competing mobile TV technologies that have a gained foothold in some European markets, the commission said T-DMB was not common enough in Europe to be a major player and the QUALCOMM MediaFLO technology was a “proprietary solution” still undergoing testing.

The WorldDMB organization, which advocates the adoption of T-DMB and is aware of the draft document, issued a press release last Thursday stating that Germany launched commercial services using T-DMB last year and has since extended services to cover most of its major urban centers, while France has plans to tender licenses for a T-DMB network later this year. It also noted that 14 European countries have tested T-DMB-based mobile TV services.

Quentin Howard, president of the WorldDMB, said that the EC’s move to mandate a single mobile TV standard disregarded the wishes of many in the European mobile TV industry: “The European Mobile Broadcasting Council (EMBC) concluded quite clearly that the market should decide [on the most appropriate mobile TV standard], and that the EC should not mandate a single technology,” referring to an organization comprising broadcasters, telcos, device manufacturers and other European mobile TV players formed late last year at the behest of Reding to study and make recommendations on the most appropriate mobile TV standard for the EU.

In its final report, issued earlier this year, the EMBC recommended the EC adapt its current legislation for electronic communications on a case-by-case basis to address challenges to the implementation of mobile television in the different EU member countries. The main reason cited by the group for this recommendation was the “technology neutral” approach of the current electronic communications regulatory framework, which aims not to favor any one technology over another.

The FLO Forum, the industry group advocating the adoption of MediaFLO for mobile TV services, has not made an official comment on the EC’s apparent favoring of DVB-H. Members of the group, however, did lobby the EC to permit the use of multiple mobile TV standards in the EU in May.