Virgin Mobile is on track to launch the UK's first true mobile broadcast TV service, a rebadged version of BT’s Movio product, this summer.
Movio, which completed a successful trial earlier in the year, uses the same frequencies as DAB digital radio but enhances them to provide a limited number of TV channels, a system known as DAB-IP (Digital Audio Broadcasting — Internet Protocol).
Previous iterations of mobile TV in the UK, such as services provided by Orange and Vodaphone, have streamed the signal as Internet Protocol (IP) packets. This method uses a large amount of 3G bandwidth and the resulting expense forced operators to cap the number of hours that users could watch per month.
Streaming mobile TV over 3G networks can also lead to a degraded service if there are many active users in the cell.
Insiders have told ZDNet UK that Virgin's deal with BT includes a period of exclusivity of three months. The content providers for Movio will likely be announced within a month.
The first handset to feature the service will be based on HTC's Trilogy design, and has been co-designed by BT and UK firm The Technology Partnership. The phone runs on Windows Mobile 5.0 and will be incorporated into Virgin's Lobster range of devices.
DAB-IP has long been expected to beat its current rival technology, DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting — handheld), to the market as the spectrum it needs is already available. It is not yet certain whether the spectrum needed for DVB-H will ever be made available, but if it comes to fruition it will offer more channels than is possible over DAB-IP.
It is also understood that BT will announce details of a new mobile TV technology early next week.