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Is DVB-H doomed?

Consider some headlines about DVB-H from the last six to eight months:

• French mobile operators abandon DVB-H
• DVB-H Flop in France?
• Future of DVB-H in Europe
• Germany to decide on future of DVB-H

Indeed, things are looking bleak for DVB-H.

Observers say that Germany's ZAK media oversight agency is getting ready to make up its mind on the future of DVB-H. ZAK has been trying to discern a DVB-H roadmap ever since the Mobile 3.0 consortium said "thanks, but no thanks" to its DVB-H license in 2008.

In February, French media authority CSA expressed its frustration with 13 broadcasters who have yet to agree about how to deploy DVB-H mobile TV, despite receiving licenses two years ago. Among them are France’s three main mobile operators.

Add to this picture of low-to-no confidence the needs for new DVB-H transmitter networks, plus the cooperation of a daunting number of market players: retailers, handset makers, network operators and broadcasters. And all of this is in the face of an audience that has yet to decide that it needs something it doesn't have.

For some people in the mobile TV space, this isn't new news. The fact that analog broadcast is by far the world's most popular mobile TV demonstrates that people like familiar TV that's mobile. Further, in its 2008 report, “Opportunities for Streamed and Broadcast Services, 2008-2013,” Juniper Research projects that by 2013, some 330 million people worldwide will have handsets that can receive terrestrial broadcast TV signals, but less than 14 percent of them will sign up for pay mobile TV services.

“The development of terrestrial TV-capable receivers with comparatively low power consumption, and the availability of these receivers in mass-market handsets, throws into question the business case for the deployment of a dedicated network in many markets,” said report author Windsor Holden.

To put the icing on DVB-H’s stale, uneaten cake, the newer DVB-SH and DVB-T2 standards are gathering speed, both of which have advantages over the older DVB-H standard. DVB-H's predicament seems like a case of obsolescence at birth.