France to develop national mobile TV service

The French government is moving forward with plans for a nationwide mobile TV service based on the DVB-H and DVB-SH technologies.

A soft launch of the service, based on the DVB-H standard, is expected in time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, with a full nationwide rollout anticipated by 2010. The latter would use the DVB-SH hybrid terrestrial satellite mobile TV delivery technology to cover all of France.

According to Thierry Vachey, deputy director for the licensing department at the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA), the regulatory authority overseeing the service, the French government has already adopted decrees specifying the use of the DVB-H and DVB-SH technologies for the service. The next step is a call for applications for mobile TV licenses, he said, with this process scheduled to begin at the end of this month.

Going with the DVB-H standard would be favorable in the eyes of the European Commission (EC), which officially backed the standard in July. While the EC has thus far not mandated the use of the technology by European Union (EU) member states such as France, it has stated that it would consider such a measure if necessary.

DVB-H seems to be the logical choice for French broadcasters and mobile operators. According to research firm Screen Digest, the country has already invested approximately 45 million Euros (roughly $63 million) in the technology, and a wide swath of companies involved in French mobile TV favor the standard.

As for DVB-SH, a hybrid satellite/terrestrial standard closely related to DVB-H developed to provide improved outdoor and indoor coverage of mobile TV signals across wide geographic areas, several French companies, most notably Alcatel-Lucent and UDcast, have been involved in efforts to develop and refine it. These companies will also assist with the service rollout in France.