T-Mobile and Orange to pilot mobile TV

The operators plan to launch a commercial pilot of a TDtv-based mobile TV service after 'encouraging' technical trials
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

T-Mobile and Orange are to conduct a commercial pilot of mobile TV, less than a year after a similar venture by BT and Virgin Mobile failed.

On Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the operators said they would "jointly pilot a new mobile TV and multimedia broadcast service" in the second half of this year. The trial will take place in West London and will utilise the TDtv mobile broadcast standard, which makes use of unused 3G spectrum.

Orange originally announced its intentions to trial mobile TV using TDtv two years ago, with early technical trials scheduled for mid-2006. At that time, the technology partner involved was IP Wireless, which in 2007 was bought by NextWave Wireless — NextWave is now Orange and T-Mobile's partner in the new trials. Vodafone, Telefonica and 3 were also participants in the Bristol-based technical trials, but do not seem to be involved in the commercial pilot announced on Tuesday.

Mobile TV has had a previous outing in the UK, in BT's Movio service. Launched in September 2006 through Virgin Mobile and its "lobster phone", the venture collapsed within a year, mostly due to a lack of consumer interest. Movio was based on a mobile TV standard called DAB-IP, but in mid-2007 the European Commission said it wanted operators to standardise on yet another standard, DVB-H.

Operators including Orange and T-Mobile continue to offer mobile TV of a sort, but only in the sense of fairly low-resolution streamed content. On Tuesday, the operators said those participating in the new trial would be able to receive up to 24 high-resolution television channels along with 10 digital radio stations.

"The results from the technical trial of TDtv in Bristol last year were extremely encouraging, and this joint pilot of the service in London is an excellent opportunity for us to properly explore the great potential available to our customers from the technology," said Orange's product and innovation director, Paul Jevons, on Tuesday.

"On a technical level, our involvement with this TDtv pilot is intended to raise awareness of the potential of broadcast mobile TV and help stimulate the development of an industry-wide ecosystem in which operators, handset manufacturers and content providers collaborate to realise a robust commercial proposition," said T-Mobile UK's technical director, Emin Gurdenlo. "TDtv uses part of the licensed 3G spectrum which is unused at the moment and is a technology that can scale to support high simultaneous usage levels without any degradation in quality. This solution would be ideal for broadcasting live, large sporting events such as the 2012 Olympic Games to high population densities."

PacketVideo, a NextWave subsidiary, will be providing the pilot with its electronic programming guide application and its new MediaFusion platform, which is designed to let operators roll out services such as music-on-demand, personalised streaming radio, live TV and video-on-demand.

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