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DVB-H gets another setback, while rival IMB gets a Samsung boost

Much of Europe will never get a DVB-H network after all – a separate network to broadcast TV programs especially for phones – not after yet another Eu

By PETER WHITE

Published: 28 October, 2010

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Much of Europe will never get a DVB-H network after all – a separate network to broadcast TV programs especially for phones – not after yet another European country closed its Mobile TV broadcast services – Austria decided to turn its system off by Christmas having landed just 10,000 customers in around two years.

This follows closures in Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland and a complete failure to launch a service in France. Italy has a DVB-H network and the UK is still searching for spare spectrum to put one in.

But this doesn’t mean that the rest of Europe will have to give up on TV on a phone, and it may end up being the perfect place to try out a new technology. UK radio pioneer IP Wireless this week said that it has cut a co-operation agreement with major Korean handset maker Samsung to enable a rival technology to DVB-H, one which uses the cellular network, but allows broadcasts over it, called IMB (Integrated Mobile Broadcast). At the moment each TV channel which is sent over a cellular network takes up about 125Kbps for each person connected, so you can never put things like live soccer on it, because it would break the network. Only about 20 people per base station would get reception, and the rest would just not get TV, because the spectrum would have to be preserved for phone calls. Using IMB, the entire population around a base station could watch a single channel and only use up the bandwidth of one streaming person.

IMB was supposed to be on a long term trial in the UK with Orange and T-Mobile, because of the lack of new spectrum available for other types of mobile broadcast and now IP Wireless which invented many of the ideas in IMB, finally has a major handset maker behind it, perhaps this trial will lead to a service.

The UK will get some spare spectrum for using DVB-H by 2012, when analog TV is switched off, but now it looks like the DVB-H system, which requires the build out of an expensive network, probably costing in the region of £200 million, will never get anyone to shell out that kind of money. IMB will use existing base station sites and cost far less and already many mobile operators are happy enough with the small numbers they can support on pure streaming networks.

The service which is being switched off in Austria is operated by TDF’s Media & Broadcast, and was sold to consumers on 3 Austria, Telekom Austria and Orange Austria handsets. Combined they are thought to have sold just 10,000 subscriptions because the DVB-H service was only available on expensive phones and was also charged for as a service.

In March this year Swisscom, which also launched DVB-H service at the time of the last soccer European cup, alongside the Austria launch, said that it would ditch its DVB-H network in favor of 3GPP streaming, blaming the decision on the fact that no devices were available at the right price.

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