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Boffins from South Korea and the UK are teaming up to trial mobile data broadcasting over DAB (digital audio broadcasting) networks.

Researchers say the technology is capable of supporting both public service and commercial multimedia applications, such as mobile TV.

The trial will showcase enhancements of the DAB platform that make the technology capable of broadcasting television and other multimedia applications to mobile devices using existing spectrum. But researchers have one eye on the expected release of spectrum bands, a development which will increase the multimedia capabilities of DAB technology. Band III spectrum is expected to become widely available later this year with L-Band spectrum availability due in early 2007.

Using DAB in Band III for multimedia broadcasting could be cost effective as it can use existing infrastructure and, with some spectrum already allocated, services can be launched immediately. DAB technology lends itself to either free-to-air radio services or premium services. Enhanced radio, mobile TV and other multimedia applications can co-exist with existing DAB audio services.

The trial will feature two approaches to data broadcasting on the DAB platform - Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (T-DMB) and Internet Protocol over DAB (DAB-IP). T-DMB is ETSI approved while DAB-IP is pending ETSI approval.

Mobile TV using T-DMB technology was launched commercially in South Korea last December with live interactive data services from Korean broadcasters due to commence by the end of summer 2006. Germany is even further ahead in deploying the technology. L Band plans to use the technology to broadcast clips from the upcoming World Cup to mobile devices.

Despite its pre-approved status, DAB-IP has been lined up as the technology behind the launch of commercial services in the UK later this year. These upcoming services will support a package of TV channels, all the UK DAB digital radio channels, a seven day program guide and "red button" interactive services.

The trial, which takes advantage of an L-Band test and development licence supplied by Ofcom, aims to match lessons learnt in Korea (on the use of T-DMB) with those gleaned from early experiments with DAB-IP in the UK.

Multimedia DAB content will be transmitted from two sites in London, (the BT Tower and Arqiva's site in Croydon) during the six month trial. The first phase will cover testing and showcasing of audio and visual capabilities while a second phase will look into the potential for data and interactive services. Mobile TV content will be provided by BBC News 24, EMAP, ITV, Cartoon Network, Eurosport and Teachers' TV.

The UK and Korean partners participating in the trial include Arqiva, the BBC, BT Movio, and Virgin Mobile, as well as the Korean Ministry for Information and Communication, LG Electronics, Samsung, Pixtree, and Ontimetek.

Details of the trial were announced during a seminar in Westminster on Monday.

UK chair of the trial Matthew Honey said: "Mobile TV is the buzz-word of the moment and this trial is vital to actually realise its potential in the UK. It will allow UK broadcasters to see and assess the different approaches that can be taken to deliver TV on mobile devices via the DAB bearer - this is really important, not just in relation to existing capacity, but also in relation to potential new frequencies likely to be made available on Band III and L-Band spectrum later this year." ®

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