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Babelgum chews on Vodafone

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Updated Free net TV company Babelgum has signed a deal with Vodafone to bring their video content to Vodafone customers in the UK and Italy, at least for users of the Nokia N96, N95 and 6210.

Babelgum is offering free content on the back of advertising embedded in its proprietary media browser - to watch Babelgum content one has to download a special client (which is already available to iPhone users, and now on the Vodafone Live portal) which can then be used to stream adverts, as well as guiding users around the content.

That content may be free, but the bandwidth is not. Users watching Babelgum will see their data bundle eroded, though the service is also available over Wi-Fi connections, and you'd have to watch an awful lot of TV to hit the cap.

The deal is much like that offered by Rok TV, so the debate comes down to content. For those who want to watch real television on the move Vodafone UK offers tariffs from three quid a month - for ITV, Channels 4 & 5 and the Champions league amongst others - up to a tenner a month for all that plus a bouquet of Sky channels.

The operator sees no great threat from the free offerings - in fact Vodafone seems more concerned that customers won't even bother watching for free. "This is a six-month trial to see whether the content is good enough for our customers, whether they like it enough to offer the service," a representative told us.

There is also, no doubt, a hope that punters will try the free service and find that while the technology works well the content isn't up to scratch, and perhaps they'll upgrade to a paid-for service.

But if free and subscription TV can both find business models over 3G networks then the argument for mobile broadcast gets knocked down again, no matter how much regulators seem to like the idea. ®

Update: Vodafone has been in touch to assure us that punters watching Babelgum over a 3G connection won't eat into their 500MB fair-use limit, at least not during the 6-month trial, so the content really is free while they establish if it's worth paying that much for.

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