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DVB-H – A European Standard for Mobile TV?

I know it’s slightly bad form to cross-promote one’s own blog, but as I suspected back in March, the European Commission under the (partisan?) guidance of Mme. Reding has decided that DVB-H should be the best way for mobile TV to be broadcast in Europe. Three cheers from… erm… Nokia, I guess. The Finns will be very happy.

WorldDMB has quite correctly pointed out the appalling anomalies in the logic behind the decision, including the apparent blindness to the fact that DAB (Eureka 147) was as much a European funded project as DVB-H ever has been, and is just as competent bearer of mobile TV. Indeed, EBU studies have shown that DMB can be a more cautious and less financially risky way of implementing Mobile TV than DVB-H.

When something unexpected or inexplicable happens, you have to weigh up whether it was more due to cockup or conspiracy. In this case, with Nokia (a “european” company) being the primary benefactor of DVB-H, and Samsung/LG (“korean” companies) producing the majority of DMB handsets, one feels that the evidence weighs towards a European protectionist conspiracy. If it’s a cockup, then really Mme. Reding and her team of well-looked-after advisers might do the decent thing, and move on.

To a certain extent, I am ambivalent about the issue of mobile TV. DMB has been a very good demonstration of how powerful DAB can be, and how it’s more than capable of integration into the mobile handset. But mobile TV consumes an awful lot of spectrum, and in the UK it does so at the expense of spectrum for radio services. DigitalOne is currently 30% full of a TV service that not many people use (admittedly, not DMB, but an altogether more proprietory Microsoft based system), and that’s what’s squeezing out good DAB Digital Radio services on that multiplex. The economics favour mobile TV, which is a very hard issue for radio people to overcome.

Radio is not a very pretty place economically at the moment, and when the mobile TV industry is flush with speculative investment funding, it’s very difficult to argue that the spectrum allocated to radio should be protected and used to create a new radio experience when there’s no guaranteed income or success. It’s arguably more prudent to take the mobile TV funding, and let radio “get by” on what’s left.

I don’t agree with that. I think we are squandering a time-limited opportunity to reinvent radio, and more critically, rejuvenate the revenues that keep radio healthy. Maybe we need a surge of new investment into radio from entrepreneurs keen to build a new business?

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