DAB Technologies Battle for Mobile TV Role

David Murphy

After what seems like an age, but is actually only a few weeks, out of the limelight, Mobile TV is back in the news again, with yesterdays announcement of a 6-month trial to assess the merits of two technologies competing to be adopted as a standard for Mobile TV and radio. Some reports, however, seem to be overstating the significance of the trial. This mornings FT, for example, talks about: a trial to decide which should be adopted as a global standard.
In fact, the trial, organised by the World DAB Forum, is simply looking at the suitabililty of two competing DAB-based (Digital Audio Broadcasting-based) technologies for use in delivering Mobile TV services. As such, it does not involve other potential Mobile TV technologies such as DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld), which has been the subject of trials by O2, Nokia and Arqiva in Oxford.
This is something that came out of Korean collaboration with the World DAB Forum to compare the attributes of both variants a BT spokeswoman told Mobile Marketing. I would not say it is about which will emerge as a global standard.
The technologies slugging it out in the trial are T-DMB (Terrestrial-Digital Media Broadcast), which has been used in South Korea for the past six months, in which time it has attracted 600,000 users; and DAB-IP, which is being pushed by BT. BT concluded a 4-month trial of DAB-IP among 1,000 users in the M25 area in January, and plans to launch a service, initially in conjunction with Virgin Mobile, in August. 

The trial came out of a UK-Korea Round Table meeting held last
September, organised by the DTI's Global Watch Service, and opened by
Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Sainsbury. It was originally due
to start in April 2006, and will focus on comparing the
technological aspects of the different applications of the
WorldDAB Eureka 147 standard offered by the T-DMB and DAB-IP
applications. The trial will have a closed engineering user group, and
will enable user to receive DAB digital radio
and video content on their mobile phones, as well as interact with the
content via the phone's return path

Using an L-Band test and development licence supplied by Ofcom, the
trial will see a live broadcast of content over DAB from two
transmitter sites in London, one at BT Tower, the other at Arqivas
site in Croydon. The trial will be conducted in two phases, the first
testing and showcasing audio and visual capabilities, the second
covering the potential for data and interactive services. Mobile TV
content will be provided by BBC News 24, EMAP, ITV, Cartoon Network,
Eurosport and Teachers TV.

The UK and Korean partners participating in the trial are Unique
Interactive, Arqiva, GCap, BBC, BT Movio, iPark London, RadioScape,
Factum and Virgin Mobile, the Korean Ministry for Information and
Communication, LG Electronics, Samsung, Pixtree and Ontimetek.

The trial will be co-ordinated by digital radio and interactive media
technology company Unique Interactive,  whose Managing Director,
Matthew Honey, will act as UK Chair. He says:

Mobile TV is the buzz-word of the moment and this trial is vital to
actually realise its potential in the UK. It will allow UK broadcasters
to see and assess the different approaches that can be taken to deliver
TV on mobile devices via the DAB bearer this is really important, not
just in relation to existing capacity, but also in relation to
potential new frequencies likely to be made available on Band III and
L-Band spectrum later this year.

While the trial will assess the merits of the DAB-based technologies,
the other technologies should not be ignored. In March, a report from
analyst frost & Sullivan concluded that DVB-H would  emerge as the
preferred standard for Mobile TV in Europe.

Commenting on the trial, O2 Vice President of Research and Development, Mike Short, told Mobile Marketing:
"In a sense, the UK is the laboratory of the world where Mobile TV is concerned, and this is another trial in that laboratory. The good news is that there is prospect and demand for Mobile TV, but the jury is still out as to which technology will win in the end."

More on Mobile TV  here.