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South Korea, Japan advance proprietary DMB standard with launch of satellite

SK Telecom successfully launches a DMB satellite from its base in Florida.

Last week, the “Araeahanbyu/MBSat” satellite launched from Florida put South Korean and Japanese business interests one step closer to an industry leadership position in the push to deliver news, sports, entertainment and other programming to users of handheld devices, such as mobile phones and handheld computers.

The satellite, built by Space Systems Loral in Palo Alto, CA, is a joint effort of SK Telecom, a large telecommunications company in South Korea, and Japan’s Mobile Broadcasting Corp. (MBCO).

The $327 million project will allow South Korean and Japanese users of handheld devices to receive satellite transmissions conforming to the digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) standard, South Korea’s proprietary standard supporting broadcast transmission to handhelds.

SK Telecom has a 30 percent stake in South Korean system operator TU Media. The South Korean roll out of the DMB service will begin with a testing phase in May. Commercial operations are expected to begin in July.

SK Telecom holds 34.66 percent ownership of the satellite; MBCO owns 65.44 percent. “Araeahanbyu” is the satellite’s Korean name. It is called MBSat in Japan.

While DMB availability beyond South Korea and Japan may become a reality; it will face competition from other standards, most notably 3G. Regardless of the ultimate winner, the launch and roll out of DMB in South Korea illustrates the migration of broadcast delivery to new users and raises questions for broadcasters, including news directors, over how best to serve this niche.

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