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O2 begins UK mobile TV trial

Full-scale trial of new mobile TV technology begins in Oxford

Arqiva and O2 have joined with Nokia and both terrestrial and satellite broadcasters, testing the technology and consumer interest of mobile TV in the UK.

The six month trial, with 400 people in Oxford, will offer sixteen television channels including BBC 1 and 2, ITV 1 and 2, and Channel 4, direct to a Nokia 7710 handset. The handset is a widescreen multimedia Smartphone which contains a receiver equipped to pick up the TV signals.

Although Orange currently offer some TV services on its 3G network, the Arqiva trial will be testing new technology platform DVB-H (digital video broadcasting - handheld). DVB-H has been subject to numerous experiments from global broadcasters and mobile developers, across the US, Germany, France, Sweden, Finland and other countries.

The technology allows broadcasters to send the same signal to multiple handsets, and has been specifically designed to account for the screen size and battery life, allowing mobile phone users to receive television signals in real-time. Popular shows including Coronation Street, CSI and MTV will be available, with an on-screen guide for show and channel selection.

To preserve battery life, only the information required for the channel currently being watched is sent to the phone, but DVB-H technology is in competition with the digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) standard. Swedish firm Ericsson, South Koreans and the Japanese all back DMB, claiming that the battery reduction is less and frame rate higher than DVB-H.

In addition to the technology test, organisers are keen to establish customer reaction to the mobile TV service, and whether or not they are likely to pay for watching TV on a small screen. Technology consultants Strategy Analytics forecast revenues of GBP 3.5 billion (EURO 5.1 billion) with 51 million mobile TV users by 2009.

This forecast is echoed by Dave Williams, O2's chief technology officer, who stated: "Increasingly, new forms of content are making their way onto mobile devices - music, in particular, is already booming - and the latest buzz is about television. There will be many millions of mobile TV viewers worldwide by 2010."

Through consumer testing on its 3G network, Orange established viewing patterns which could help the DVB-H trials. It said 18% watched mobile TV while travelling, 12% while waiting for friends or queuing, and 10% watched it at home

Mark Selby, Nokia's vice president, multimedia, said: "Consumer reaction and usage patterns will help the broadcast and mobile industries understand what content viewers want to see on this exciting new technology."

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