Sky comes down to earth for mobile TV tests

It's Oxford versus Cambridge for in-yer-boat-race trials of Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology

UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB is to evaluate Qualcomm's MediaFLO digital mobile TV technology, the companies announced on Tuesday.

In trials later this year, BSkyB and Qualcomm will use a vacant UHF TV channel in the Cambridge area to broadcast 10 live TV channels to around a hundred customised mobile devices.

"We're not conducting a commercial test," Jeff Brown, Qualcomm's director of international business, told ZDNet UK, "but checking the technical feasibility of running the MediaFLO system in the UK."

MediaFLO is commercially deployed in the US, where it uses one nationwide analogue TV channel to deliver up to 30 QVGA (320x240 pixel) streams at 25 frames per second, alongside stereo audio and short streamed video clips.

"We’re using FFA, form factor accurate, models of mobile phones because we expect that the most likely scenario is that BSkyB will want to pair with a mobile network operator," said Brown. "Other trials are planned in Europe. We're very optimistic for the next 12 to 24 months."

Last year O2 conducted a similar test with the DVB-H transmission standard in Oxford. Any network that decides to use the UHF TV band will have to wait until the analogue switch-off, due to complete in 2012, and bid for whichever segments of the band are put up for auction.