The European Commission has just announced it’s backing the DVB-H (digital video broadcasting-handheld) standard for television on mobile phones and other portable devices.
DVB-H is the cousin of DVB-T, which is the digital television standard used by Australia, Europe and much of the rest of the world outside the US. DVB-H is a standard that will allow television providers to broadcast digital TV signals that meet the low power and mobility requirements of portable receivers. To translate: it will enable broadcast TV for mobile phones and other portables.
Now this news is more important than you’d think for Australia. Details on why after the jump.
In Australia, mobile television is currently slave to desires of the telcos. They have no interest in actual broadcast television for mobiles — they’d prefer to use 3G to transmit video signals to subscribing handsets. That way, they completely control the available services. Most of their development efforts in this space are working towards making 3G television more practical. A standard called MBMS (multimedia broadcast multicast service), for example, will allow telcos to more efficiently send 3G-based TV services to a larger number of subscribers without the 3G network collapsing under the weight of the bandwidth requirements.
DVB-H, however, is a broadcast service. That means it works like regular broadcast TV: if you’re in signal range, you can watch TV — the phone is basically a small TV tuner. There are as many channels as there are broadcasters in the area you’re currently in, and your service provider has no control over which channels you can and can’t watch. The Australian government, when it was apportioning spectrum for digital TV, actually set aside a chunk of spectrum for what then Communications Minister Helen Coonan called “innovative datacasting services.” In practice, this meant mobile TV broadcasting. There are already demonstration channels in operation.
The big problem, of course, is that there have been no handsets available that can receive DVB-H mobile television channels. This news from Europe may change that, however. Once we get handsets and devices that support DVB-H (and given Nokia’s backing of the standard, that may come soon), there may finally be some motivation for broadcasters to put mobile TV channels on the airwaves, and we could finally be free of the iron grip the telcos have on mobile TV. [Tech News World]