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Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Mobile television still just a blip on consumers' radar


Visitors sit on a bench during the first day of the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday.


Mobile television is taking center stage at Europe's annual wireless industry show after years of largely unfulfilled hype, though differing technology standards still blur the picture.

As in past years, mobile network operators, handset makers and content providers are banding together at 3GSM to pitch TV broadcasts, video games and other entertainment as the answer to stagnant or shrinking revenue from phone calls, compounded by slowing subscriber growth in Europe.

But this time around, mobile TV broadcasts are actually available to cellphone users in a growing number of countries, from Europe to Asia. Soon they're expected to arrive in the US, though once again a technological divide appears to be forming over the Atlantic Ocean.

While more mobile TV services and devices have been rolled out over the past year, "none of them have really taken the market by storm," said Nick Lane, an analyst at the research firm Informa Telecoms & Media. For that to happen, questions about the viability of the different platforms, software and business models, need to be addressed, he said.

At the show, which opened on Monday, industry players were confident that the pieces are coming together.

Nokia Corp chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo used his keynote to unveil the N77, a multimedia device with a 2.4-inch screen he said would speed up the acceptance and use of mobile TV services based on DVB-H, or digital video broadcast-handheld. That platform has been embraced by a growing number of wireless operators that already use the globally dominant GSM technology standard for their phone networks.

Kallasvuo predicted the DVB-H market would reach as many as 10 million units sold by the end of next year and double to 20 million in 2009.

The N77's features include stereo sound, alerts that sound when a show starts, and a program guide that shows listings for up to a week.

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