Peter Bazalgette, UK Chairman of leading independent television producer Endemol was clear about the potential of Mobile TV when he told the BBC, “This year is the first in a career of 27 years in television that I've been able to entertain people anywhere. A new era for those in the content business is starting.”
For mobile operators looking to bring commercial television services to market, there are a range of competing technologies and standards available. Yet, in order to provide end users with the best quality mobile TV experience and the widest selection of channels, it is the DVB-H standard that delivers the best solution.
Delivering television over 3G
For many mobile operators, 3G networks provide the means of launching mobile television services here and now while DVB-H networks are being tested and developed. Vodafone, Orange and 3 have all rolled-out television services delivered over their 3G infrastructure, offering customers a selection of live television channels. In October 2005, Vodafone launched their 3G Mobile TV service in conjunction with Satellite broadcaster BSkyB. The service was offered free to Vodafone customers in the UK until the end of January, after which it will cost £5 a month.
Yet, while 3G is a solution for bringing television services to the mobile space now and giving consumers a taster of what it is like to consume television on their mobile, it does not represent a long term solution for Mobile TV. On a 3G network, television content must share capacity with other mobile traffic, including downloaded content and voice calls. If the network reaches full capacity, then the quality of the television services will suffer. Furthermore, on 3G there is a limit to how many television channels can actually be delivered to the end user.
The key to making Mobile TV a high quality, compelling service for consumers is in combining traditional broadcasting standards with features specific to handheld devices. Namely, smaller screens and antennas, indoor coverage and reliance on battery power.
The technology that can best achieve this is called IP Datacasting over DVB-H, a combination of digital broadcasting and internet protocol, which enables service reception in handheld devices. The Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld (DVB-H) standard has been created specifically to meet the unique challenges that mobile TV presents and was formally adopted by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) as the standard in Europe for Mobile TV services in November 2004.
DVB-H builds on the existing terrestrial TV infrastructure (DVB-T) which is used widely to deliver terrestrial digital television services. The fact that DVB-H relies on an existing television standard means that the initial investment in setting up Mobile TV services is reduced.
In addition to being an approved and open standard, the benefits of DVB-H are as follows:
It provides the best user experience in the mobile environment, with an energy saving handset that is only ‘on' 10% of the time, electronic programme guide, soft handover and in-building coverage
It offers an excellent, broadcast-quality picture with a screen resolution equivalent to VHS
Battery consumption is reduced by 90% due to time-slicing technology
The efficient use of bandwidth means that DVB-H can offer up to 55 mobile channels
It is supported by publicly available air interface specifications helping to drive device interoperability and market development
Its security includes end-to-end control of stream encryption, generation of decryption keys and delivery of keys to consumers in a billing-integrated way
DVB-H will be accessible by an audience of approximately 300 million mobile users by the end of this year.
Bringing Mobile TV service to market
The DVB-H standard has by far the most widespread acceptance across the various sectors involved in bringing Mobile TV to market, including operators, broadcasters, broadcast network operators and content providers. This can be seen by the large number of consumer DVB-H trials that have, or are currently, taking place across the globe.
In Europe , trials have so far taken place in Germany , Finland , the UK , Spain , Switzerland , France and the Netherlands . The results from completed trials are very encouraging. In the Finnish trial, over half (58%) thought that Mobile TV services would be popular and exactly half of those involved thought that €10 per month was a reasonable price to pay for such services. Local programmes available through Finnish national television proved to be the most popular content alongside sporting events such as the Monaco Grand Prix.
Results which have just been released from the UK trial in Oxford paint an even brighter picture of consumer demand for Mobile TV. The trial, conducted by O2 and Arqiva and involving 400 consumers, found that 76% of those involved would take up mobile TV services within 12 months. 83% of triallists were satisfied with the service provided. On average, those that took part in the trial used Mobile TV twice a day and for 3 hours per week.
Over the course of the next six months we expect to see the first commercial DVB-H Mobile TV services being launched globally.
With Mobile TV over DVB-H we can truly say that this is the next big thing. Trials have shown the extent of consumer interest in these services which in turn brings the prospect of significant revenue opportunities for mobile operators. There are also a whole range of new interactive services made possible by Mobile TV. And for the broadcast industry, we have the opportunity to totally redefine prime time. People will be able to view their favourite television content anytime, anywhere, representing a fundamental shift in the way people consume television.
About the Author
Mark Selby is Nokia's Vice President of Sales for Mobile TV and Music. Prior to joining Nokia he was Senior VP at IMG/TWI, managing mobile activities in sports, entertainment, TV, radio and online. He worked closely with many rights owners, including Manchester United, the IOC, IRB and many musicians.
Previous roles include CEO of MCN where he produced many mobile content services including Essential Sports, MTV mobile, Big Brother and Mobile Ibiza,
President of Solid Information Technology, Executive Director Health On the Net Foundation, President Internet Society, Geneva and senior executive roles at Digital Equipment Corp. and Xerox. He was appointed Expert to the European Commission on EDI in 1987.