DVB-H anointed in Europe

RCR Wireless News
The European Commission has formally adopted Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld (DVB-H) technology as the standard for mobile television throughout the European Union’s 27 member states.

The move was entirely expected despite objections from three of the EU’s most powerful members, some of whom where calling for the listing of all competing standards for broadcast mobile TV.

Yet, with DVB-H having taken an early and definitive lead throughout the region as the most widely used standard, the Commission has been moving toward adding the technology to the EU’s list of standards since July 2007.

The agency stopped short of legislating DVB-H as the region’s mandated standard. By listing it as a standard, the technology becomes the preferred distribution platform for broadcast mobile TV, but doesn’t preclude competitors like Qualcomm Inc. from pushing its MediaFLO technology into the market. Moreover, Qualcomm has repeatedly pointed out that additional standards can be added to the list anytime. Nonetheless, member states are now required to encourage the use of DVB-H as the single listed standard.

Still, Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, has pushed for a single standard to stave off further market fragmentation and speed up the launch of mobile TV services.

“For mobile TV to take off in Europe, there must first be certainty about the technology. This is why I am glad that with today’s decision, taken by the Commission in close coordination with the member states and the European Parliament, the EU endorsed DVB-H as the preferred technology for terrestrial mobile broadcasting,” she said following today’s announcement.

“The next steps for implementing the EU strategy on mobile broadcasting will include guidance on the authorization regimes as well as the promotion of rights management systems based, as is DVB-H, on open standards,” she added.

The commission predicts the mobile TV market could reach 500 million customers and bring in $31.5 billion by 2011. DVB-H is currently between trials and commercial launch in 16 EU countries, according to the commission. Commercial services are available in Italy now, with launches expected later this year in Finland, Austria, France, Switzerland and Spain.

DVB-H has all but fallen off the map in the United States, with its two-largest backers no longer operating trials. AT&T Mobility acquired Aloha Partners L.P.’s 700 MHz spectrum holdings, effectively ending its HiWire L.L.C. subsidiary’s DVB-H trial last year, and Crown Castle International Corp. sold spectrum it once planned to use to offer live, broadcast TV services after failing to find a carrier partner.

AT&T Mobility’s plan to launch broadcast mobile TV services with MediaFLO USA Inc. has suffered multiple delays, yet sources point to a launch in a couple weeks at CTIA Wireless 2008 in Las Vegas.

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