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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
TV project aims to kick-start 3G
The LGU 8110 mobile phone
Is broadcast-quality video what 3G phones need?
High-quality, affordable video delivered to mobile phones could be the kick-start 3G phones need.

An ambitious project is under way to find a way to send TV broadcast signals to mobiles by 2010.

Dubbed Instinct, (IP-based Networks, Services and Terminals for Converging Systems), the project is being led by west London's Brunel University.

"It could be the teaser needed to get people to use 3G," said project co-ordinator Dr Thomas Owens.

3G hiccups

It potentially solves two problems that have long been on people's minds - how to bring together the internet and TV, and how to make 3G handsets attractive to users.

Couple in a shop talking about mobile phones
At the moment 3G has not delivered what was hoped for it and people are not using it anything like as much as the operators hoped,
Dr Owens, Instinct Project Coordinator
Third-generation mobile phone technology offers users a wide range of high speed mobile services.

These include video calling and messaging, e-mail, games, photo-messaging and news and information services.

"There's currently very little crossover between broadcast and the internet," said Dr Owens, Instinct Project Coordinator.

"But Instinct will bring the two together with mobile communications," he told BBC News Online.

"At the moment 3G has not delivered what was hoped for it and people are not using it anything like as much as the operators hoped," he said.

Some 50 channels of news, sports and weather information with high-quality video clips and easy to navigate portals on mobile phones could be just what consumers are waiting for, added Dr Owens.

There is also potential for more specific local channels, with information on hotels, restaurants and cultural events.

EU cash

The technology will be much cheaper for end users because it is being delivered via a one-to-many broadcast signal rather than a one-to-one phone call.

There is much work to be done, however.

Creating a cellular broadcasting network would require lots of transmitters dotted around the country, an engineering headache.

And with many people wanting to use such a service while on a train or car journey, there are also issues to be ironed out about how to deliver signals at high-speed without using up valuable battery power.

The project will have 6.4 million of EU funding and bring together academic and industrial partners in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain and Brazil.

The EU is especially interested in the project because of its potential to increase take-up of digital public services among those without internet connections.

For people unable to get internet access at home, there is potential for public services, such as benefit forms, being available to download to phones.

Users would simply need a Bluetooth-enabled phone linked to a transmitter in their local post office to make use of such a service, said Dr Owens.

Other potential uses include downloading TV programmes stored in a set-top box to mobiles, to watch at users' convenience while away from home.

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