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DVB-H rockets ahead in Italy

Makes the world rethink its sums

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Comment One of the few successes to come out of the World Cup fever was the Italian DVB-H service from 3 Italia, which launched for real during the run up to the Cup.

Most other mobile TV services merely used the World Cup as a demonstration of what their service would look like.

3 Italia has this week filed a document at DVB Project saying that it already has 111,000 clients in the first five weeks (from 6 June to 11 July) after it was introduced on 6 June, making its take off even faster than the S-DMB service that was launched late last year in Korea – but then again Korea is a slightly smaller country, Italy has 58m people against Korea's 48m.

It took around three months to reach the first 100,000 users of S-DMB, and in Italy this has been achieved in under half the time. The key has been the wide availability of the network, with 1,000 transmitters supposedly covering 2,000 Italian cities (read towns rather than cities), and the idea that people can sample it by buying just a day or a week's TV at a time.

3 Italia has chosen to charge dramatically more than any other operator or supplier is suggesting, and higher than surveys suggested people thought mobile TV would be worth. One day's viewing costs €3 ($3.70), a week is €12 ($15) and a month €29 ($36.50), with the full service including all the mobile TV services, one hour of calls per day and one GB of internet downloads for to €49 ($61.65).

The service offers nine channels at the launch, plans to increase this to 20 at the end of the year and 40 for 2008 by using a second 8 MHz slice of spectrum. 3 Italia bought its spectrum from Canale 7 in channels 21 and 55. We're not sure which of the spectrum it is using today, but it has both 474 MHz and 746 MHz to choose from.

The company says that already its services reach 40m people, some 75 per cent of the country and it runs on LG U900 and Samsung Stealth phones, running an electronic service guide from Expway, using conditional access from Nagravision, with Gemplus smart cards.

We would estimate that the network rollout to date is likely to have cost it around €80m ($100m).

3 Italia reports that demand has not slowed down since the World Cup ended, and that usage has been mostly outdoors with much of it in office hours. Though we're not quite sure how 3 Italia knows when a user is indoors or not.

The company says it will have 500,000 users by year end and that the two Italian services (Mediaset is due to launch shortly) will have between them 10musers, around 17 per cent of the country's population, by 2010.

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