ESA backs satellite broadcast to mobile phones
DVB-H party hots up
The European Space Agency (ESA) has joined the DVB-H party by funding development of technologies for broadcasting TV to mobiles via satellite.
This follows the EU's recent endorsement of DVB-H as the broadcast standard for mobile phones.
ESA has called its standard DVB-SH (Digital Video Broadcast - Satellite, Handheld) and envisages using satellites to send out video at 2GHz to 4GHz (S-Band). Terrestrial repeaters would be used to give indoor coverage.
Eutelsat has commissioned a new satellite to be launched in 2009, with the intention of broadcasting DVB-SHb - though it's hedging its bets by claiming it's for multimedia distribution rather than any specific technology or application.
Much of the technology needed by DVB-SH doesn't yet exist, so the ESA will be issuing invitations to tender (ITT) for companies that want to have a go at developing them. First up will be a mobile chipset capable of receiving and decoding DVB-SH version b signals. The ITT is due to be published in the next few months.
When questioned about the business model for satellite-to-mobile broadcast, the ESA spokesman referred to US-based Sirius satellite radio. When it was pointed out that Sirius lost over $134m last year, he hastily changed his example to Korea, where S-DMB (Satellite - Digital Multimedia Broadcast) has achieved some success using the DMB standard (which has been rejected by the EU).
But the ESA isn't responsible for finding successful business models - it's just funding companies that want to develop technology for broadcasting TV to mobile phones from satellites. Let's just hope the technology has other uses too. ®
re: Dish size
Bill Ray, the Americans already have portable receivers for Sirius. At the high powers and lower frequencies used for DVB-SH, a smaller antenna is required, and you can even get away with a unidirectional antenna, especially in combination with the ground-based repeaters required in urban areas. The Eutelsat satellite (actually being built in an unprecedented joint venture with Astra) has a very large antenna and very high power, suggesting it will also use spot beams to concentrate its power.
The technical challenges aren't really that great, but as the author says, is there a market?
The big question
Does anyone actually want TV on their phone, or at least, do enough people want it to make it worth doing?
This still looks like a solution is search of a problem.
What size dish goes with my Nokia?
I'll be closer to believing this is a viable game when a handset manufacturer starts showing interest. ESA have their own agenda to promote.
In the real world, why would a handheld DVB receiver need a substantially smaller aerial (dish?) than a fixed (domestic) one? The Yanks are trying digital audio via satellite (but it's struggling commercially) as the article mentions. That service needs truck (or car) mount size aerials. Half decent video, even for a phone-sized screen with low refresh rates, needs more bandwidth than audio, so probably needs a bigger aerial. To improve received signal quality you could have higher power transmitters on the satellites, or same power over a smaller footprint, but both of those are economically unattractive, and anyway ye canna change the laws of physics.
If people want transportable DVB-S systems you can get it today for less than the unsubsidised cost of a mobile handset, but the DVB-S doesn't fit in your pocket.