Mobile TV has moved one step nearer to widespread roll-out as the European Commission officially selects DVB-H as the standard for Europe.
Despite opposition from some countries, DVB-H is to be added to the official list of standards whose use all 27 EU Member States have to actively support and encourage.
The move gives broadcasters, content creators, service providers, and hardware manufacturers the certainty they need to begin rolling out mobile TV services across the continent from next year onwards.
DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld) is an open standard developed by the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) Consortium and backed by the likes of Nokia. It has already been commercially launched in Italy and Finland and was recently trialled in Ireland by O2, which used the technology to provide television stations such as RTE1, TV3, Sky Sports and the Discovery Channel to select mobile users.
The decision to endorse a single standard means that in a short space of time mobile phone subscribers should be able to enjoy watching popular TV programmes via their handsets.
Such a move will be welcomed by mobile manufacturers and operators who expects to see significant revenues from the deployment of mobile TV.
According to Datamonitor, the number of mobile TV subscribers is expected to jump from a niche 4.4 million today to 155.6 million by the end of 2012.
The research firm predicts that mobile TV's global subscriber base will have swelled to 65.6 million in 2010 before more than doubling to 155.6 million by the end of 2012, a year-on-year growth rate of 66.2 per cent.
Endorsement of DVB-H comes after much squabbling among member states as to which standard would be the best to back in Europe with Britain, Germany and the Netherlands voicing opposition to a single standard.
In March, the European Commission called for unity on the issue, warning that failure to reach an agreement on a standard could mean that adoption of the technology could be delayed.
Mindful of the fact that mobile TV is already becoming popular in South Korea and Japan, the Commission has been anxious to encourage the launch of such services closer to home and considers 2008 to be a crucial year for take-up in the EU due to important sports events, such as the European Football Championship and the Olympic Games.
Speaking on Thursday, Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, welcomed the decision to endorse DVB-H and called on the minority of governments opposed to the standard to back it.
"The more member states participate actively, the better Europe will be in achieving the required critical mass to become a world leader in mobile TV. Europe must especially not miss the occasion of the European Football Championship in Austria and Switzerland in 2008," said Reding.
"I therefore call on the member states still lagging behind with their internal procedures to intensify their efforts. Watching mobile television should become for every European as easy, attractive and affordable as making a phone call," she added.
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