BARCELONA (Reuters) - Mobile phone giant Nokia expects mobile TV networks using its chosen standard to be up and running by the middle of next year, allowing people to watch live TV broadcasts on their mobile phones.
The system -- Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld (DVB-H) -- is being tested in about 40 pilots worldwide and Nokia's Anssi Vanjoki said on Wednesday he expects networks to go live in the first half of 2006.
"This is, of course, speculative because there are certain regulatory elements as well," Vanjoki, general manager of Nokia's Multimedia division, told a conference in Spain.
Nokia said it would make the technology a regular feature on its multimedia mobiles, allowing users to watch broadcasters' programmes directly rather than rebroadcast by telecom firms.
Mobile operators and broadcasters are hoping flat-rate TV services or pay-per-view broadcasts will bring in revenue from people who cannot bear to miss a goal or the latest episode of their favourite soap opera while out and about.
Many mobile firms have offered subscribers selected TV programs through existing third-generation (3G) networks, but analysts say regulating TV broadcasts direct to mobiles and agreements on licensing rights are likely to take time before becoming widespread.
One of the targets in sight for mobile operators is the soccer World Cup, which start in Germany next June.
Korea already has mobile TV broadcasts using a rival technology developed there, Digital Media Broadcast (DMB), which has been offered on handsets from Samsung Electronics <005930>, the third-placed handset maker.
Standard multimedia feature
Vanjoki expected Switzerland, Indonesia, Thailand, Germany and Russia to be among the first to set up mobile TV networks using DVB-H.
"We think DMB is going to be Korea-based from here to eternity. The advantage of DVB-H is so clear that that is the technology we're going to follow," he said. "We're not following any other track."
Italian phone operator Telecom Italia Mobile -- a unit of Telecom Italia -- and media group Mediaset said last month they would start live mobile TV next year using DVB-H standard.
"We will roll this out across our product portfolio and certainly, by the end of this decade, we will be in a position to ship more than 75 million devices enabled with DVB-H," Richard Sharp, of Nokia's Multimedia division, told the conference.
Nokia earlier launched the N92 handset, intended for mobile TV broadcasts, and which is expected to go onto the shelves next year.
But Ben Wood, of market researchers Gartner, was sceptical about Nokia's projected timeframe for mobile TV.
"The industry will be lucky to get it out in 2008. Issues with rights and standards need to be overcome first," he told Reuters on the sidelines of Nokia's conference.
DVB-H allows an unlimited number of handsets to receive broadcast television and some operators believe that could make it effective for mass market, flat-rate TV services priced at about 5-10 euros (US$6-12) a month.
Additional reporting by Arild Moen in Helsinki and Georgina Prodhan in Frankfurt.
Nokia sees mobile TV networks running by mid-2006
By Lucas van on Nov 3, 2005 9:00AM