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Advances in Mobile TV Highlighted at IBC2008

IBC2008 will once again offer attendees the latest advances in technology and applications arising from the mobile revolution. The highly successful Mobile Zone, which has been one of the features of IBC conventions in the past few years, is expected to turn its focus this year on the convergence of data interchange between platforms, especially those for mobile and broadcast TV. This possibility is being enabled by technologies, which can link and interchange IP-based protocols easily between platforms including the Internet.

There also will be examples of interactive services, which integrate the operation of voting, quizzes, advertising, service purchase and protection, as well as electronic service guides on handhelds, some based on the DVB-IPDC, IP Datacasting specification.

Expect also to see phones and handsets, which, as well as being DVB-H-enabled, have the added capability of receiving programmes broadcast on DVB-T, T-DMB and MediaFLO platforms.

DVB-SH-related products and progress updates will also be shown on many stands, both in the Mobile Zone and on the exhibition floor.

This year MediaFLO is the sponsor of the Mobile Zone, which might seem surprising after European Commissioner Viviane Reding’s endorsement of DVB-H earlier this year and the fact that DVB-H is now in operation in sixteen European countries.

However Reding’s announcement did not preclude the use of other broadcast mobile TV standards in Europe; it was rather a statement of preference for a single system to prevent fragmentation and get the market moving. Although this move has reduced the number of competing standards, Qualcomm in particular continues to push its MediaFLO system and recently purchased the right to use the L-Band (1452-1492 MHz) allocation in the United Kingdom.

In the U.S., MediaFLO has already been adopted for broadcast TV to mobiles by the two biggest mobile operators, AT&A Mobility and Verizon Wireless.

Complementing both of these terrestrial standards, DVB-SH, the hybrid satellite/terrestrial-delivered mobile TV system, is now undergoing Alpha trials in the U.S. by ICO Global Communications and should begin commercial services in 2009.

Alcatel-Lucent, which was one of the main DVB-SH specification participants and also part of the U.S. trial, is continuing with field trials of the terrestrial part of the system in Europe. These trials pave the way to the start of the European DVB-SH service, which can take place after the launch of the Eutelsat’s W2A satellite in 2009.

Although there are endless discussions about the pros and cons of each competing mobile TV delivery standard, the system choice is not the main issue preventing the start of a service. Choosing a future-proof system is obviously desirable, but having some spectrum to transmit it in is much more important, as is having the regulatory legislation in place to allow its use.

Whilst we are all enthusing about new broadcast mobile TV standards at the IBC convention we should not forget portable and even mobile applications for those already in place.

Recently the Euro 2008 football championship prompted the start of DVB-H services in several participating countries so that sport enthusiasts could keep up to date with the action. However a recent move in Germany might bring significant competition to the new mobile TV standards in the future.

German racetracks, the Norisring and the Nurnberg ring, have both obtained DVB-T licences to broadcast to fans who have DVB-T-enabled phones, PDAs and laptops during events. Four simultaneous channels offering various angles of live coverage are available and all are free-to-air. The start of these services follows on from the recent launch of DVB-T-enabled phones in Germany offered by Samsung and LG.

While many of the new standards designed for mobile phones provide better battery life and the ability to receive at high speeds, it remains to be seen if these features offer enough benefits to encourage users to purchase broadcast mobile TV services, when they can access some of them for free on DVB-T-enabled phones.

All these developments and more are likely to be addressed during the conference sessions and on display on the IBC exhibition floor.