With the focus of the Digital Video Broadcasting project’s annual conference here this week on the convergence of broadcasting with mobile communications, the theme repeated in session after session might well have boiled down to: Ã¬TV in your pocket, money from your pocket.Ã®The first versions of Ã¬portable TV,Ã® enabled by the new DVB-H mobile video standard, are from Nokia of Finland and Japan’s NEC. The devices are already in the prototype stage.
They are the vanguard of efforts to add features to mobile phones, and to create a new category of mobile video receivers that will amuse consumers, improve revenues for companies in a number of industries and, possibly, atomize society even more than today’s oft-lamented Ã¬lonely crowd.Ã®
In the convergence of mobile communications and broadcasting, DVB members have already examined and refined the necessary compression formats, notably H.264, also known as MPEG-4, Part 10.
The main obstacles to Ã¬convergenceÃ® are conditions proposed by competing H.264 licensing agencies Ã³ who represent intellectual property owners. Also, there is the danger that Microsoft, promoting its Windows Media Video 9 codec, could balkanize mobile TV into a futurescape where consumers cope once more with the unpleasant choice of choosing between incompatible platforms.
While the licensing and platform dramas simmered beneath the surface, a parade of engineers and professors presented details of trial projects, throughout the world, in which the newly minted mobile video standard DVB-H (DVB-Handheld) serves as the basis for bonding broadcast and mobile communications right inside the cozy confines of every consumer’s pocket media.
DVB-H was approved in February by the DVB Technical Module.
This marked the last stage before DVB member companies can proceed to devise products and services that exploit the standard. Among the biggest of the pilot projects already under way is the Ã¬Pan European Instinct Project,Ã® which started with a bang on Jan. 1 with a guarantee of 96 million euros in matching funds from the European Union (EU).
Instinct includes more than 20 companies and several universities in most of the EU countries, plus the United States and Brazil.
Projects like Instinct, a similar trial called FinPilot run by the French TDF Group in Finland, and the Broadcast Mobile Convergence (BMCO) effort in Berlin, all have a similar aim Ã³ to extend the reach of broadcast video and audio into mobile devices Ã³ beginning with mobile phones. According to Jukka Henriksson, chairman of DVB’s DVB-H project,
market studies have shown that Ã¬The public would be very keen to have TV on their mobile phones.Ã®
But that ain’t all. The advent of DVB-H, which makes handheld video possible because of quantum reductions in battery drain on the typical mobile phone, can bring a host of Ã¬infotainmentÃ® options to the screen of a mobile phone or one of the new standalone portable video devices now being developed by consumer electronics manufacturers.
Among the features soon available to the ambulatory phone hedonist, according to Claus Sattler, project leader of the BMCO initiative in Berlin, will be comedy, e-papers, EBay-type auctions, museum and travel guides, business TV, games, music clips, events guides, sports, shopping, news services, e-learning, media-on-demand and interactive options, too.
All this will come at a price, which is vital to industries that have seen both television and mobile telephony sink to commodity status, with prices for both devices and services so low that profits are minimal. One of the keys of all the pilot projects, noted the TDF Group’s Bernard Pauchon, is to Ã¬assess the capability of end-users paying an access fee for services…to increase the revenue of mobile operators.Ã®
This doesn’t just go for mobile operators. The newest Ã¬goose that laid the golden eggÃ® for equipment makers and broadcasters, also, is the arrival of television in a long-life, lightweight, handheld form Ã³ with users paying for the privilege. As noted by Pauchon, Ã¬TV in your pocket should be the killer app.Ã®
If there was a discouraging word uttered at the DVB conference Ã³ other than Ã¬licensingÃ® Ã³ it came from Sattler, who let slip one caveat: Ã¬We don’t know if people want to watch TV programs on a mobile phone.Ã®
Read also this article on Berlin trial site for mobile TV reception.