UK mobile provider begins TV-on-phone trial

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The trialists will use the Nokia 7710 smartphone, pictured here.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mobile phone provider O2 (O2) in partnership with Nokia and Arqiva began a trial of a new service that allows customers to watch broadcast TV on their mobile phone. The trial began on Thursday in Oxford. Four hundred O2 customers have been selected to participate. According to O2 the trial represents a balanced selection of the population.

Participants have been supplied with Nokia 7710 smartphones, that can receive 16 channels. The trial service currently carries BBC ONE, BBC TWO, BBC News 24, ITV 1, ITV 2, Channel 4 and 5, Eurosport, Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery Channel, MTV, ShortsTV, Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Travel.

TV shows are transmitted using a technology called Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds (DVB-H). It requires a special receiver to be connected to the mobile phone. Nokia has said they plan to build support for the DVB-H technology into future Nokia phones. Using DVB-H the phones will get about eight hours per charge, this is because the DVB-H uses the "time slicing" technology.

Many other UK providers have offered mobile TV on cellphones, however this is the first to offer regular full length TV shows. Most other providers use the 3G video-streaming technology. "3G is perfect for two-minute video clips. But, if you're watching a 90-minute football game, we think DVB-H is the most suitable," said Dave Williams, O2's chief technical officer

Customers can use an onscreen programme to select programmes they wish to watch and it will alert them when the show starts.

In South Korea many mobile phone companies already offer television on mobile phones using a system called digital mobile broadcast. In the US a recent survey by InStat, found few Americans are interested in mobile TV. Canadian company Telus also recently began to offer mobile TV services.

"By establishing relationships through activities such as this, we hope that potential challenges will be minimized and mobile TV becomes a commercial reality sooner than is currently possible," said Dave Williams, O2's chief technical officer