Mobile TV Standard Urged

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The European Union's top telecommunications official has threatened with regulation if member states continue to wrangle over a common standard for broadcast mobile TV service.

EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding warned Friday during a news conference at the Cebit trade show that she had the powers to impose a standard and made it clear which of the competing broadcast mobile TV standards she prefers: DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld ).

"I could mandate a standard but I don't want to because that would be the last resort," Reding said, urging all parties -- manufacturers, operators and national broadcast authorities -- to agree to a common standard soon.

"The deadline is this summer," Reding said. That would give manufacturers and operators sufficient time to launch products and services ahead of the European Soccer Championship and the Olympic Games in China.

The Commissioner referred to DVB-H, which was developed largely by European manufacturers and has already been approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), as an "open standard" and a "European standard" and the sooner everyone agreed to support it, the better.

Reding estimated the worldwide market for broadcast mobile TV services and products to grow from more than €2 billion (US$2.6 billion) in 2006 to €11.4 billion by 2009.

"Europe has a real chance with mobile TV just as we did with GSM," Reding said. The Global Systems for Mobile Communications standard originated in Europe.

DVB-H is already in use in 17 EU-member states. Italy was among the first in Europe to embrace DVB-H and has more than 400,000 people now using the service.

The technology competes with two other standards, DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting), which is being pushed by South Korean handset manufacturers, and MediaFlo, developed by Qualcomm Inc.

DMB-based mobile TV service is available in Germany, while the U.K. has tested MediaFlo.

In an earlier interview, Andrew Gilbert, president of Qualcomm Europe, said the results of the company's trial with British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) indicate that MediaFlo would be able to cover either twice the geographical area per transmitter or deliver double the number of channels as DVB-H, and channel switching times are faster.

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