EU chooses mobile TV standard

One system to rule them all

EU flag

The European Commission has drafted a document recommending the adoption of Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld (DVB-H) as a pan-European, mobile-broadcasting standard to avoid "market fragmentation".

The document is intended for publication mid-July, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal, and follows on from comments made by Viviane Reding, the commission's regulator, back in March. At that time she stressed the need for a cross-Europe standard, and indicated her preference for DVB-H, but those comments raised considerable anger in the industry, which wanted the market to be left alone.

DVB-H is one of three standards competing to provide broadcast video to mobile phones, the others being Digital Media Broadcasting (DMB) and MediaFLO.

Nokia has been a fierce proponent of DVB-H, a technology in which it holds considerable patent rights, to the point of building handsets before any service existed and contributing financially to network-operator-led trials. Samsung has, meanwhile, been doing much the same thing with DMB. Having convinced the South Korean Government to mandate DMB, the company has since been financing large-scale trails in Europe and elsewhere.

First-class trips to Korea might play better than hops to Finland, at least with the network-operator management, but the fact that Nokia is in Europe could be seen to carry more weight with the EU.

Qualcomm's MediaFLO is not only American, but, according to the document, a "proprietary solution" that is at the start of the testing phase.

All three technologies are capable of providing a decent broadcast video experience, and can be slotted into the TDD frequencies currently lying idle in many countries, so this argument is becoming less about technology and more about patent rights and politics.

What seems most remarkable is the amount of money companies are prepared to spend on the assumption that punters really want broadcast TV on their mobile phones. While the home-viewing experience rapidly moves towards video-on-demand and unicast, it seems perverse for mobile phones to be heading in the opposite direction.

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