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EU officially endorses DVB-H

But who asked for their opinion?

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The European Commission (EC) has formally endorsed DVB-H as the preferred standard for digital TV signals to be broadcast to mobile phones, though the business model for broadcast TV is still open to debate.

The Commission makes much of its decision to mandate GSM as a mobile phone technology back in the 1980s, and the resulting success of mobile telephony, drawing parallels with the broadcast TV business in cost-reduction of equipment and potential for roaming between countries.

The problem with this argument is that the DVB-H specification covers only part of the interface - aspects such as Digital Rights Management (DRM) are likely to remain deployment-specific so switching between services, or countries, is unlikely to be possible. Language barriers will prevent much international roaming anyway.

The other problem is frequencies. The EU would like to see a chunk of the UHF band (470-862MHz) allocated to DVB-H once it's freed up by the analogue TV switch-off. But UK regulator Ofcom is moving away from allocating frequencies to technologies, preferring to just license the band and allow the buyer to decide what to use it for.

So even if DVB-H is used across Europe, you won't be able to receive a picture from different operators with one device - and even if you can you're unlikely to be able to decode it.

The business model for broadcast mobile TV is also contentious. Even where trials have been successful up to 40 per cent of viewing is happening in the home, where femtocells have the potential to provide unicast services in a cheaper and more personalised fashion.

DVB-H isn't being mandated by the commission, just officially encouraged. More consultation, and a possible mandate, will come next year as the commission considers 2008 a key year in the development of mobile TV.

Such a mandate could reduce hardware costs and create a more competitive market, or it could strangle an industry on the edge of being stillborn anyway. ®

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