European Commission opens single market for mobile TV services
Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Today, the European Commission announced that it has adopted a strategy favouring the take-up of mobile TV across the 27 EU Member States. The Commission urges Member States and industry to facilitate and accelerate the deployment of mobile TV across Europe and to encourage the use of DVB-H as the single European standard for mobile TV.

“Mobile broadcasting is a tremendous opportunity for Europe to maintain and expand its leadership in mobile technology and audiovisual services,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. “Europe is today at a crossroads. We can either take the lead globally – as we did for mobile telephony based on the GSM standard developed by the European industry – or allow other regions take the lion’s share of the promising mobile TV market. ‘Wait-and-see’ is not an option. The time has come for Europe’s industry and governments to switch on to mobile TV.”

Up to now, the introduction and take-up of mobile TV in the EU has been slow while Europe’s competitors have progressed significantly. Unless Europe takes concrete action immediately, says the Commission, it risks losing its competitive edge. For example, the mobile TV penetration rate of South Korea, Asia’s most developed mobile TV market, is close to 10%. Yet penetration in Italy, the EU’s most advanced market, is still less than 1%.

Three key success factors have been identified by the Commission for mobile TV take-up:

Standards/interoperability: The Commission will promote consensus around a common standard, to reduce market fragmentation caused by multiple technical options for mobile TV transmission. Currently, the Commission believs DVB-H technology is the strongest contender for future mobile TV, with successful commercial launches and trials in 18 European countries, and increasingly worldwide.
Spectrum: The Commission calls upon Member States to make spectrum available for mobile broadcasting as quickly as possible, including in the UHF band (470-862 MHz) as it becomes available following the switch from analolgue to digital TV broadcasting. The Commission has also initiated the opening to mobile TV services of another frequency band, the so-called L-band (1452-1492 MHz) as a fallback solution.
A favourable regulatory environment: National approaches to regulating mobile TV vary considerably at the moment. This generates regulatory uncertainty across the EU. The Commission considers that mobile TV is a nascent service and as such should benefit from “light touch” regulation. It will organise an exchange of best practice and provide guidance for a coherent framework for mobile TV authorisation regimes.
Response from the EBU

In response, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) today welcomed the Commission’s efforts to foster the development of a new mode of TV delivery across Europe and ensure interoperability and competitiveness of receiving devices. It also emphasized the support that public broadcasters give to new digital services, such as mobile television.

The EBU says it appreciates that the Commission’s Communication does not mandate a single standard for Mobile TV, and encourages it to follow its recommended principle of technological neutrality, i.e. any one technology should not be favoured over another.

Public broadcasters, says the EBU, believe that the pace of technological development precludes the adoption of any one standard for mobile broadcasting at this stage. They furthermore believe that it should be up to businesses to define attractive business models that will entice consumers to opt for the standard they like best.

Commenting on the newly published proposal the president of the EBU, Fritz Pleitgen (ARD/WDR), said “Technology alone will not decide the future of mobile TV. New devices will not be attractive unless they can show what the audience wants to see.” He stressed the fact that, “Europe’s audiences want outstanding content on all significant platforms. The unique, valuable and diverse content which Europe’s public broadcasters produce is a vital part of that offering.”

(Sources: European Commission/EBU)