BT has confirmed that mobile operator Virgin Mobile—the subject of a £961m takeover offer from UK cable group ntl—will be the first partner to sign up to its BT Movio broadcast digital television and radio service for mobile phones.
The move makes Virgin Mobile the first mobile operator in Europe to offer its customers digital TV and radio content on mobile devices using broadcast technology: BT Movio leases Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) spectrum under a joint venture with Digital One, the national digital multiplex owned by GCap Media.
A pilot of the service last year found that just under three quarters of the 1,000 triallists within the M25 area said they would be prepared to pay for a mobile television 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.
Confirmation of the BT deal with Virgin Mobile came at the 3GSM World Congress yesterday in Barcelona. Also unveiled was the new handset which will screen the new TV service. Dubbed the Trilogy, the DAB-IP enabled smartphone with 2.2-inch screen will offer the broadcast service on a limited exclusive basis to Virgin Mobile customers later this year.
Emma Lloyd, managing director, BT Movio said: "BT is at the forefront of innovation and the BT Movio service is the first of its kind in Europe. By taking the leap into broadcast TV for mobile, Virgin Mobile will be able to offer customers a real live TV experience. We are delighted that they have chosen our platform.
"Bringing the world's first DAB-IP enabled Smartphone to market is another huge achievement for BT and the beginning of a step change towards open standards in the area of TV broadcasting over DAB. By working with Microsoft and HTC we have been able to develop a handset that provides an easy to view, high quality experience, wrapped into a hi-spec media driven mobile phone. This will be vital in attracting mobile operators to the BT Movio service."
Graeme Hutchinson, sales and marketing director of Virgin Mobile, said: "Virgin Mobile customers will be the first people in Europe to watch real broadcast TV over their mobile phones. It's not downloaded; it's not looped; it's real TV just like you get at home, and it's real DAB digital radio—crystal clear sound."
Under a strategic relationship with Microsoft, BT Movio is deploying Windows Media technologies, including Windows Media Video and Windows Media Audio Pro. The BT Movio service also incorporates Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology to ensure secure delivery of premium video and music content.
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