BT 'to launch mobile TV service'

3GSM: The UK could soon get a nationwide mobile TV service based on DAB, but it may not be as good as the DVB-H alternative

Microsoft, BT and Virgin Mobile are thought to be close to launching a mobile TV service in the UK, according to reports on Monday.

The Financial Times claimed that the three companies will announce Europe's first nationwide mobile digital television broadcast service on Tuesday, at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona.

A BT spokesman declined to comment on this report, but did confirm that BT had representatives at 3GSM and would be making an announcement on Tuesday.

BT and Virgin Mobile have been working on a mobile TV service for several months. BT revealed in January that it was developing a product called BT Movio which it initially planned to offer to Virgin Mobile user, and which had been successfully trialled for four months in 2005 among 1000 users in London.

Many operators and manufacturers are working on mobile TV offerings, in the belief that the potential market for such services is huge. However, there is little agreement about the best way to proceed. BT's Movio product uses the digital audio broadcasting (DAB) standards which can operate in two separate bands, only one of which is presently in use in the UK.

Other mobile TV trials have used a standard called DVB-H, such as O2's trial in Oxford. Experts have said that DVB-H should deliver a better quality service than DAB. However, the spectrum needed for DVB-H is not currently available in the UK, and O2's chief technology officer Dave Williams has hinted that Ofcom isn't moving quickly enough to resolve this.

Jorma Ollila, Nokia's chief executive, said at a press conference on Monday morning that Nokia was teaming up with Sony Ericsson to develop standards for mobile TV based on DVB-H.

ZDNet UK's Andrew Donoghue and Rupert Goodwins contributed to this report.