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Commission recommends DVB-H for Europe, Qualcomm pines for ‘technology neutrality’

19 июля 2007
The European Commission, with its sights set on speeding up a continent-wide deployment of interoperable mobile TV services, has officially endorsed the DVB-H standard for the service. The move is largely aimed at staving off “market fragmentation” in a field where numerous players are offering competing platforms.

Digital video broadcast-handheld, a technology backed by a number of European heavyweights including Nokia Corp., “appears to be the strongest contender for future mobile TV deployment in Europe,” the commission wrote on its Web site following the decision.

The commission has thus far held off on mandating DVB-H as a standard for broadcast mobile TV services, but said it may choose to do so after looking at progress in the field next year.

“The commission is not choosing a winner. The market in Europe is already largely in favor of DVB-H. Unlike Austria, the commission is so far not mandating a single technology by legislation, but instead gives the market the clear signal that she should move voluntarily but quickly to a single standard,” the commission added.

“DVB-H offers an opportunity for mobile TV services to develop the economies of scale they need for uptake across Europe and globally. A common standard provides certainty concerning technological decisions, avoids the risk of market fragmentation and enables economies of scale which will result in lower prices for consumers and faster take-up. Interoperability remains an important objective.”

Many view the EU move as a major blow to Qualcomm and its plans to push its competing MediaFLO technology abroad. Qualcomm’s subsidiary MediaFLO USA Inc. has gobbled up the lion’s share of the mobile TV market in the United States, with long-term partnerships already established at AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, the nation’s two largest carriers.

Peggy Johnson, executive VP and president of Qualcomm Internet Services and MediaFLO Technologies, said the San Diego-based company stands by the principle of technological neutrality.

“Technology neutrality is important because it is the market that should ultimately decide which technologies are best suited for each territory or organization that wishes to develop a mobile broadcast business,” she wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

“Furthermore, we believe that fair competition in the European market—as set by the existing regulatory framework—will encourage the development of innovative technologies, deployment of new networks and availability of new services and attractive products,” Johnson wrote. “The real barriers for the introduction and widespread adoption of mobile TV in Europe are sector-specific regulation and spectrum availability. In this regard, we support the commission’s proposals for spectrum allocation to mobile TV services and regulatory framework coordination across Europe.”

Nonetheless, few should be surprised by the commission’s decision. Europe has historically taken a firm approach in regulating the mobile telecommunications space, particularly with its decision in the early ‘90s to select GSM as the single standard for mobile phones. The decision is largely heralded for enabling regional compatibility and pushing cellphone use throughout the region.

The commission hopes a single standard for mobile TV will have the same effect.

“In the case of mobile TV, political choices have to be made if these new services are to be taken up on a large scale in Europe, and citizens are to benefit from this. In the past such a political choice was made with the GSM standard for mobile phones, which as a result became successful worldwide,” the commission wrote. This all comes as a fresh report from research firm Analysys predicts mobile television will become a multi-billion dollar industry in Europe by 2010. However, the firm voiced concern with the as-yet unclear supply side of the fledgling industry and other factors.

“Our research shows that there is an expectation of real demand for mobile TV services, driven by the premium that users place on convenience, and this could be expected to represent a significant revenue opportunity. However, recent evidence suggests that the mobile TV market could be significantly more complex than the existing terrestrial broadcast environment,” said Jim Morrish, a senior consultant with the firm.

For this, the firm advises the industry to make each move based on consumer needs.

“With some studies suggesting that up to 35% of mobile TV consumption will take place in the home, femtocells must surely figure in any operators’ technical plans for offering mobile TV,” Morrish cited as one example.

“The real advantages of broadcast mobile TV technologies lie in the ability to provide a ubiquitous baseline of content, available on demand, with other technologies being used either where long-tail or interactive content is required, or where consumption is to some extent pre-planned.”

By Matt Kapko, mobile.rcrnews.com

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