BT is reportedly set to announce the UK launch of a broadcast mobile digital television service. The launch follows a four-month trial, using Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) spectrum. Last month BT said the pilot, conducted with mobile operator Virgin Mobile, demonstrated clear consumer demand for mobile television.
The Financial Times said BT would team up with Microsoft and Virgin Mobile to roll-out the service, and would confirm the launch tomorrow at Barcelona's 3GSM conference, the mobile phone industry's biggest annual gathering.
According to the FT, BT and Virgin Mobile, which is the subject of a takeover offer by cable group ntl, plan to launch the service by the middle of the year. At least five television channels will be on offer, similar to the number in the pilot which broadcast television and radio channels to 1,000 triallists using DAB-enabled phones within the M25 area.
Just under three quarters of participants said they would be prepared to pay for the service on their current network if the service was priced competitively; 38% were prepared to switch networks to receive the service. Over three quarters of the pilot users tuned into digital TV and radio on their mobile on a weekly basis or more often, with the average length of TV viewing being more than one hour per week.
DAB's big advantage over DVB-H, the standard trialled by Virgin's mobile rival O2 and transmission group Arqiva in Oxford last year, is that spectrum is already available via digital radio whereas DVB-H requires an allocation from Ofcom—and that could have to wait for the switching off of analogue television signals between 2008 and 2012.
Meanwhile, Arqiva's mobile media chief Dr Hyacinth Nwana told The Sunday Times that broadcast solutions for mobile television had a big advantage over its delivery via 3G networks. Nwana said each of the UK's five 3G networks could only support around 100,000 viewers, a fraction of the operators' combined 15m subscribers.
Each mobile cell could only support around seven simultaneous viewers, said Nwana. "3G does not scale," he added.
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