Raymond Snoddy on Media: Coming soon to the smallest screen

While the futurologists burbled at the recent Cambridge Royal Television Society convention, an interesting exhibition ran throughout the proceedings.

There were plenty of amusing gadgets, but the star performers were the High Definition Television (HDTV) sets, which offer clearer pictures and sound. If the England team manages to qualify for the World Cup finals, HDTV will become a necessity of life by next summer.

Eat your heart out all those who recently bought a flat-screen TV that is not HD-enabled - and I'm talking personally here.

For all the joys of temporary Cambridge exhibitions, it is Oxford that will attract attention in the next few weeks following the launch of a full mobile phone TV trial.

Technology has a way of creeping up, barely noticed, even when the ideas involved have been around for ages. Sports and news clips, even streaming TV news channels, have been with us for months. Then, suddenly, 16 full channels of TV are delivered to 3G mobile phones in the Oxford area.

All the main terrestrial channels will be available, as well as BBC News 24, Sky News, Sky Sports News and Discovery.

It is a remarkable achievement, although it is not time to book a big campaign just yet. The service, which involves a signal beamed to a digital receiver in the phone, brings together Arqiva, formerly NTL Broadcast, Nokia and O2 as well as the main UK broadcasters. But it is only a four-month trial involving about 400 users.

It is really a showcase for the next generation of mobile kit, rather than current market reality. The users will not be paying extra for the TV service, just their existing mobile tariff charges.

It is rather reminiscent of BT's great Colchester trial of TV channels transmitted down the phone lines. The technology worked, but more than a decade later Homechoice is still struggling to make a business out of it and only now is BT gearing up for a national broadband TV service.

The outcome of this trial could be different, as it is in the interests of many sectors of the communications industry that mobile media be made to work.

The desperation of the 3G operators to find something - anything - that can be offered on a handset is obvious. There is still the small matter of the £23bn they paid for the licences lurking on balance sheets.

We are looking at a big 3G push this Christmas, by Vodafone in particular, and the likelihood that all the operators will try to move us on to 3G phones when existing handsets come up for replacement. As a result, a potentially interesting media platform will be created.

At the same time, commercial broadcasters are desperate to find a way of reaching the youth market, which is less and less likely to be found sitting on the sofa in front of a TV, whether HD or not.

There is the first glimmer of hope that mobile content could take up at least some of the slack. ITN is enthusiastic about the performance of its tailored news and entertainment packages so far.

The marketing community will be equally enthusiastic to have a new way of reaching young audiences.

Oxford is just one of the mobile TV trials under way around the world following a successful test in Helsinki.

But we are a long way from the finished article, and regulators will need to release additional spectrum before anything significant can happen.

At least the trials ought to show whether consumers want to have 16 TV channels available on their mobiles, while viewing choices would also begin to give a hint of how the economics might stack up.


- Arqiva trialled a mobile TV transmission system in Singapore in 2000. Three years ago, it conducted an initial mobile TV trial in Oxford, and last year ran another in Cambridge.

- The technology in the Oxford trial is called DVB-H (Digital Video Broad-casting, Handheld). The format has been tested in several countries, including the US, France and Germany.

- DVB-H is one of two possible formats for mobile phone TV, the other being DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting). DMB is being championed in several countries, primarily because it is less of a drain on the phone battery.

- Mobile operators expect to have up to 51m TV viewers by 2009.

- Those taking part in the trial will have access to terrestrial TV, plus British Eurosport, Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery Channel, MTV, Sky News, Sky Sports, Sky Travel and short-film channel ShortsTV.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer