Mobile TV used for Ofcom lesson

After Hours: Fancy watching TV on your mobile? Take a trip to Oxford and see O2’s HVB-H service in action

Residents in Oxford have become the first people in the UK to test a mobile TV broadcasting service.

The trial kicked off amid Oxford's dreaming spires on Thursday. It is being run by O2 in partnership with Nokia and Arqiva, formerly NTL Broadcast.

O2 showed off the service in a demonstration in Oxford on Thursday. Four hundred Oxford residents have been supplied with Nokia 7710 smartphones, which have been adapted to receive broadcast TV signals as well as O2's mobile phone signal.

The trial service will carry 16 channels, including all the terrestrial channels, BBC News 24, CNN, MTV and British EuroSport.

O2 said it used a rigorous selection procedure to ensure that the 400 O2 customers involved in the trial represented a balanced subsection of the population.

The service is based on a technology DVB-H, which allows digital television signals to be received by mobile devices.

With DVB-H, the television signal is broadcast over an area, in the same way that analogue and digital TV are transmitted today. Dave Williams, O2's chief technical officer, told journalists that DVB-H was superior to 3G video-streaming because it consumes less bandwidth.

"3G is perfect for two-minute video clips. But, if you're watching a 90-minute football game, we think DVB-H is the most suitable," said Williams.

BT is currently trialling a mobile TV service based on digital audio standard DAB. There have been concerns that DAB provides an inferior signal inside buildings compared to DVB-H. However, the spectrum used by DAB is already available, while the spectrum needed for DVB-H is not.

"One purpose of this trial is to educate the regulator," said Williams. "Ofcom has said it won't make any decision [about making spectrum available for DVB-H] until 2006," he added.