Enough of Korea's DMB ! Let's see how Europe's DVB-H is doing.
The ETSI's official mobile TV techno since last year, DVB-H was considered more suitable than UMTS (capacity is an issue, even with the release 6 and MBMS - Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service), DAB (the name sums it up : A stands for Audio and V for Video*), or Korea's DMB (even DMB-S requires costly terrestrial re-transmitters for an efficient coverage... and operators DO have to roll out UMTS anyway). Besides, the techno was pushed by a European player with kind of a telecom background : Nokia.
Nokia 7710 s were used for the bulk of the early trials of DVB-Handeld :
- an international triple play last year : M1 in Singapore, Sonera - Elisa in Finland and the more surprising Crown Castle in Pittsburgh.
- a spectacular spring-summer season featuring Canal+ (w SFR) and TPS (w Bouygues & Orange) in France or Telefonica in Spain
- a much awaited september trial with Ariqva's (formerly NTL Broadcast) : it's in Oxford, Shorts** are provided and O² capacity is required but the 500 users shouldn't have to row (Nokia said the batteries were powerful enough)
The US are clearly a key market : this is the place where all technos cohabit, where broadcasters rule over mobilecos... and if I can make it there I'll make it anywhere***.
No wonder the Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI) published a paper on "How Korean Telecom Companies Can Enter the US Satellite DMB Market ". The US have the same digital broadcasting standards as Korea for TV (ATSC or 8-VSB is different from Europe's DVB or Japan's ISDB - among the promoters of this "US HDTV" are USDTV), but for radio they have HD Radio (datacasting over digital radio as developed by iBiquity : terrestrial or satellite, XM Radio and Sirius Satellite leading on the sat side) instead of Korea's DMB or Japan's ISDB. Korea seems to dump ATSC for DMB for TV as well but since DVB-S already proved sustainable with SKYLife they gave DVB-H a symbolic try : KBS were the only broadcasters to play with the Ministry (MIC) and two broadcasting associations (the Korean Broadcasting Committee and the United Broadcasting Union). Of course, they are now playing along the others on DMB.
Nokia's approach of the US market doesn't look much impressive at first sight : I had to do something in the US but couldn't clinch any deal with any mobileco, so I took a towerco along with Idetic's MobiTV (major channels for $10 a month). But Crown Castle are a key partner for Verizon or Cingular in the US, and also an operator since they own their own frequencies : they paid $12.6M for a 10 year terrestrial license (5MHz, L-Band spectrum 1440-1790 MHz). Crown Castle also selected DiBcom for PC accesses, a French company seen at 3GSM and backed by an interesting crew : France's SGAM & Credit Agricole, USA's Freescale / Motorola Ventures, Australia's Convergent Technologies, Israel's Vertex Management, and Germany's Cipio Partners... both DiBcom and Convergent Technologies seeming rather Windows friendly companies.
The fact is that unlike DMB, DVB-H selected Windows Media for audio (WM along with AAC, vs BSAC for DMB) as well as for video (WM9 along with MPEG4 vs MPEG4 only for DMB). So we are not talking only about Nokia, but about a Nokia - Microsoft duo. Of course, Microsoft should also play competitive technos****, but what a pair for mobile TV...
* Yet, Virgin Mobile are investigating mobile TV over DAB (1,000 users in South-West England thanks to BT Livetime, BT Wholesale and Digital One's network). They're also soft-launching W-CDMA in few cities. In both cases, VirginRadio happened to play the crash tester for the Virgin Group : an early adopter of DAB (first trials 10 years ago), VR had already been available on 3G for a couple of weeks ("3G radio" with Sydus).
** Shorts International (A.K.A. Britshorts Ltd, also an Orange partner)
*** How about China then ? They do use DVB-T but are considering their own Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) standard while testing all others, including DVB-T, ATSC and ISDB-T. Mobile ? Don't mention it yet ?
**** This time, Qualcomm looks in a difficult position : they spent $800 on MediaFLO which won't be delivered before next year and neither Microsoft nor Korea are on board. The FCC seems more attracted by the "TV-Fi" concept.