Mobile TV Is Dicey in Europe, Too

Figuring out how to get wireless subscribers to watch and pay for over-the-air television on their mobiles is a problem in the U.S., and apparently it isn’t doing well in Europe either. But instead of asking if people actually want to watch broadcast TV on their mobiles (or would rather just stream it from the web), Europeans are questioning whether they chose the correct technical standard.

Today Italian wireless provider 3 Italia has said it is expanding its three-year-old mobile television offering with more equipment from Alcatel-Lucent that uses the DVB-H technical standard for mobile broadcast. This only caught my eye because an EETimes article earlier this week pointed out that failed DVB-H launches in Germany could throw the entire DVB-H standard into doubt on the continent:

“France will be the final litmus test for DVB-H,” predicted Alon Ironi, CEO & president at Siano Mobile. “If it doesn’t make it big time there, I am not sure of DVB-H’s future.” Siano (Netanya, Israel) is a supplier of multimode mobile TVchips that include DVB-H, DVB-T and China’s CMMB.

I suppose 3 Italia’s 8 million mostly youthful entertainment driven subscribers aren’t enough to prove DVB-H works. Here in the U.S. the de facto standard is Qualcomm’s MediaFLO technology, which AT&T and Verizon are using.  When AT&T chose MediaFLO in early 2007, that was the nail in the coffin for DVB-H in the U.S. and prompted the U.S. DVB-H provider to shut down. But given that mobile TV still isn’t bringing in a large audience in Europe or the U.S., questioning the technical standard might not solve the problem. Perhaps carriers should ask themselves if people want mobile TV at all.

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