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European Comission gears up to consider mobile TV as one of the service delivery channels for government services

Availability of mobile TV service everywhere and anytime, attractive commercial offers, interoperability of devices, spectrum availability and light regulation on licences are all vital ingredients for boosting the demand for Mobile TV in Europe, said the European Commission's Telecom Commissioner Viviane Reding at the CeBIT IT-fair in Hannover/Germany.

Digital TV is a key delivery platform for e-Government services, and Mobile TV will also be one.

Mobile TV is an exciting new platform for distribution of audiovisual content that could well generate new business opportunities for content creators and service providers, bring new value-added services to citizens, and create jobs in Europe. Whereas for the time being each country is developing its own Mobile TV market, the Commission – which is currently preparing a Communication on the subject – underlines the need for a proactive and coordinated EU-strategy. The future of Mobile TV was also on the agenda of an informal meeting of the EU Telecom Ministers on Thursday in Hannover.

"With an estimated worldwide market of 11,4 billion Euro by 2009, Mobile TV represents an opportunity for Europe to combine its strength in mobile communications with the richness and diversity of its audiovisual sector," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "However, I am disappointed about the lack of progress made so far.

To fully reap the benefits of this market and to export a European model for Mobile TV as we did with GSM for mobile phones, industry and Member States must work more closely together to devise a common approach, compare technologies, look at possible legal obstacles, make spectrum available throughout Europe and choose together the best way to ensure a quick and large take-up of Mobile TV by Europeans, preferably based on a single standard. It is now time to draft the new model of Mobile TV that it needs to be economically successful in Europe."

The Commission is strongly committed to the success of Mobile TV and encouraged the setting up, in July 2006, of the European Mobile Broadcasting Council (EMBC). This first "convergence" forum gathered players from the telecommunications hardware manufacturers, and the software, broadcasting and content industries.

Their work, as well as discussions with Member States, will feed in the preparation of a Commission Communication on Mobile TV due for Mid 2007. However so far, the EMBC talks have not made much concrete progress. Although all participants of the EMBC recognize that a single standard for mobile broadcasting across Europe could deliver significant economies of scale, they at the same time stress that there us little or no prospect of an industry-agreement on a single standard. "I would have expected more in terms of proposed solutions", said Commissioner Reding today in Hannover.

Interoperability among Mobile TV platforms and enabled devices is crucial for large scale take-up by European consumers. The Commission has already invested some €40 million in Mobile TV-related research and supported the emergence of the open Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) standards, which also cover mobile broadcasting. It is widely recognised that the business model for Mobile TV will combine telecommunications technologies such as 3G and broadcasting technologies such as DVB-H.

Only broadcasting technologies have the necessary capacity to support large scale consumption of Mobile TV. "European industry has already developed successful standards in the past, and I am very confident that on the basis of DVB-H, Mobile TV services can develop the economies of scale they need for take-up across Europe and around the world," said Commissioner Reding.

Spectrum availability is also essential for the deployment and large scale take up of Mobile TV. Whereas the Commission has already indicated that the L-band could be a solution suited to most EU countries in the short term, the potential of other frequency bands such as the S-band and the UHF band is also being explored. It is the switchover from traditional analogue to digital broadcasting that will free-up premium spectrum in the UHF band. The Commission is working with Member States in the Radio Spectrum Policy Group to define an EU-wide approach to capitalising on the digital dividend, and for re-using spectrum for innovative services such as Mobile TV. This will be set out in a Commission Communication later this year.

A thriving Mobile TV market will not develop unless regulatory obstacles are first identified and removed. Clarifying the impact of different regulatory approaches and measures, and sharing examples of best practice will allow the Commission and national authorities to create a regulatory environment that drives investment and innovation, and allow providers of Mobile TV services to offer attractive prices based on sustainable business models.

Recent trials in Europe reveal a strong consumer interest in Mobile TV. These include the trial in Germany during the 2006 Football World Cup, and the launch of first commercial services in Member States such as Italy and Finland. Other competing regions are aware of the potential, with China actively preparing a Mobile TV trial for the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing.

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