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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Mobile TV tests cartoons and news
Cartoon Network's Scooby Doo
The Cartoon Network is one of the programme providers in the trials
The UK's first trial of TV on mobiles will start with programmes ranging from music videos, to cartoons and news.

The trials by NTL Broadcast and O2 start in Oxford from July and will run for six months to test 16 channels.

All 350 testers will be able to see shows from the Discovery Channel, CNN, the Cartoon Network and a short-film channel called Shorts International.

The trial will look at how people use the service, which uses a special mobile broadcast transmission standard.

DVB-H (digital video broadcast - handheld) is a standard which has been specifically developed for the broadcast of TV signals on mobiles and other handheld devices.

BSkyB (Sky News, Sky Sports News, Sky Travel)
Chart Show Channels Ltd (Chart Show TV)
Discovery Networks Europe (Discovery Channel)
Shorts International (Shorts TV - a bespoke short film channel)
Turner Broadcasting (CNN, Cartoon Network)
It lets mobiles, which have special requirements because of screen size and battery life, handle TV signals in real-time.

"We know from our own research that well over half of UK mobile users are very interested in watching their favourite TV programmes on their mobiles, which is why we are aiming to put together such a compelling channel line-up," said Terry Howard, head of media business development at NTL Broadcast.

Mobile companies are keen to take advantage of mobile TV as a way of making more money.

But they are not as clear about how people will use the services, or whether people will be willing to pay to watch TV on such small devices with limited battery life.

Mr Howard said NTL Broadcast and O2 were looking forward to welcoming more channel providers and terrestrial broadcasters to the trial.

Testing time

The DVB-H standard is different to how video is received and watched on mobiles currently, which is via streaming or download services, because it sends live broadcast signals directly to phones.

It also allows broadcasters to send the same signals to multiple handsets.

"We believe that mobile broadcast TV has the potential to sit alongside our existing customer services based on GPRS (2.5G) and 3G mobile data networks," said Dave Williams, O2's chief technology officer.

"Mobile broadcast TV aims to be a cost effective method for transmitting high quality content from one source to multiple customers whereas 3G is ideal for providing bespoke content to users."

Time slicing technology

The testers in Oxford will all use the Nokia 7710 handset. It is a widescreen multimedia smartphone, released earlier this year, which is able to receive digital TV signals.

Man using a Nokia 7710 phone
The testers will be given a Nokia 7710 handset to try out the service
The trial is intended to give the mobile industry in the UK a better picture of how people would choose use TV on their phones while on the move.

It will also provide useful research for Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, which would need to arrange licences for use of the country's broadcast spectrum if commercial services were to be launched.

The DVB-H standard is currently being tested by US, Germany, France, Finland, Sweden and others. More trials expected to launch later in 2005 and throughout 2006.

DVB-H uses a technology called "time slicing" to allow up to eight hours of TV to be watched on one battery charge.

Time slicing only sends the information needed for the one channel of content which is being watched, which means less power is used.

But DVB-H is in competition with another mobile TV technology called Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB).

The Japanese, South Koreans and Ericsson of Sweden back DMB because they say the technology drain batteries even less and it handles more frames a second.

Mobile companies are expected to have about 51 million users of mobile TV by 2009, making an estimated $6.6bn (3.5bn) in revenue, according to technology US consultancy Strategy Analytics.

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