BT launches mobile TV service

Communications giant claims Movio is a world first, but analysts see challenges ahead
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT has announced the launch of its mobile broadcast TV service, Movio, with partner Virgin Mobile.

The service, for which Virgin currently has one handset — the Lobster 700TV — runs over the existing Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) network and also provides access to radio channels on that network.

BT claims Movio is the first wholesale service in the world to include live TV, DAB radio, a seven-day programme guide and "red-button" interactivity for mobile phones.

Channels include BBC1, ITV1 and E4, although certain content such as "some film, sport and US-produced content" will not be broadcast on the service, BT said on Thursday. The BBC1 tie-in is a year-long trial and Channel 4 may join in later, although it is providing its made-for-mobile "Short Cuts" service in the meantime.

"Viewing TV via the mobile is fast becoming a reality and the popularity of our existing services proves a strong demand for mobile viewing already exists," said Rod Henwood, Channel 4's director of new business, on Thursday.

However, analysts have previously told ZDNet UK that, while demand exists, no one yet knows how big take-up will be and operators who don't work together on standards are taking a big risk with the technology.

Analysts at Gartner said on Thursday that the mobile sector could get a boost from TV services, if they are implemented correctly.

"In mature markets, mobile TV might be a good way to convince people to replace existing phones. However, vendors need to design handsets carefully. Trends towards thin phones and smaller 3G devices mean users might not appreciate a bulkier device, even though a larger screen will be easier to watch," said Gartner.

On Wednesday Orange issued a statement saying it had "considered the DAB service from BT, but with only one compatible handset currently available and only a small number of channels on offer, [streaming TV over 3G] remains the best means of delivery for Orange".

Another rival format to DAB-IP is DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting — Handheld), which can supply a greater number of channels but for which spectrum is currently unavailable.

Virgin is expected to release pricing and availability details for the Lobster handset later on Thursday.

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