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ESA backs satellite broadcast to mobile phones

DVB-H party hots up

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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. ®

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