Leader: Mobile phones, moving images

3G won't necessarily be bringing the big game to your device

3G won't necessarily be bringing the big game to your device

Since its first network launches - and some would say a while before that - operator 3 has in its various territories tried to sell itself as a provider of video over mobile phones. To some degree, this has been one of the wider promises of 3G, though some operators are now taking a softly softly approach towards moving images and entering the market focusing on email, gaming and even voice.

So isn't the news that O2 and NTL are to stand alongside mobile heavyweights such as Nokia and Sony to offer TV over mobiles by means other than 3G bad news for those earlier dreamers? Not particularly.

Trials are to take place in Oxford using some 500 local guinea pigs (metaphorically speaking) and the DVB-H standard for digital television. Nokia's 7700 handset - now very much a prototype device - and that company's ecommerce and service system will be used.

Integrating all kinds of goodies into a typical handset is becoming easier. First we saw wireless standards such as Bluetooth get the nod, nowadays Wi-Fi and even WiMax are looking likely. So why not TV chips too? Research out this week from Portelligent says 3G UMTS handsets are becoming less circuitry intensive, so expect DVB-H in the mix too.

Those that say TV over mobiles - if there is a market - will work over a simple DVB-H link much better than 3G must consider the relative merits. 3G enables clips to be sent as downloadable bundles of, say, 30 seconds of content. A network can be set up to carry them at a given time, maybe overnight when, like a city street, they are less busy - meaning transport should be more economical.

Watching, say, the whole of a football game over a streamed 3G connection might be both very frustrating, as packets are lost, and very expensive. It could also be affected by how many people next to you are trying to do the same thing.

Doing so over a one-to-many DVB-H connection and then using 3G to pull up related content or communicate with friends watching the game elsewhere (how about on their digital TV set?) is simply great integration of technology.

3G doesn't have to be the only moving picture technology in town - we know that because we have film, cable, over-the-air TV signals and video/DVD - and it doesn't even have to be the only moving picture technology in town on mobile phones.