COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE
It's far from perfect but it isn't bad: a new commercial broadcast mobile TV service was launched just in time for the World Cup soccer tournament taking place in Germany through July 9.
This reporter managed to get his fingers on one of the handsets being used for the commercial service, based on the DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcast) standard -- and also on a prototype device being passed around to demonstrate service with the rival DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld) standard.
Both handsets, the DMB-based SGH-P900 from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and the prototype DVB-H device from Siemens AG, were provided by T-Systems International GmbH, which offers broadcast infrastructure for both services.
In a last-minute deal, Mobiles Fernsehen Deutschland GmbH (MFD) secured spectrum from local media authorities to broadcast TV signals to mobile phones using the DMB standard. MFD is collaborating with mobile phone service provider Debitel AG, which launched commercial service on May 31 in several cities, including eight of the twelve hosting the World Cup games. The service is available for €9.90 (US$12.50) per month.
Currently, only four German TV channels are available through Debitel: the public broadcaster ZDF, the news station N24, MTV and an entertainment channel created in cooporation with the ProSiebenSat.1 station.
To this viewer, a movie, airing on ZDF, had amazingly high quality. The pictures were formatted for easy viewing on the small display. The resolution was good. The audio was equally good. For anyone addicted to TV, this could be a real drug.
N24 was airing highlights of the day's soccer games. One of the big challenges with broadcasting or even streaming sports events to mobile devices is motion: jerky pictures, dropped frames and frozen images aren't uncommon. And, unfortunately, the N24 footage suffered from all three. For sure, there's plenty of room for improvement in broadcasting fast-paced sports events, including hockey and tennis, to mobile phones.
Broadcasting signals to phones in cars speeding down the autobahn, on the other hand, doesn't appear to be an issue. "We tested the phone in a car traveling at 180 kilometers and didn't notice any quality issues," said Yvonne Bechtold, marketing solutions manager with T-Systems' Media&Broadcast unit.
In addition to the Samsung phone, Debitel is offering the LG-V9000 from LG Electronics Inc. By the end of the year, the service provider aims to have six handsets on the market.
The DMB standard, which evolved from the DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) standard, is being pushed by South Korean manufacturers. LG Electronics Inc. was the first company to offer a mobile TV phone based on the DMB format more than two years ago. At the Cebit trade show in Germany last year, T-Systems demonstrated a broadcast mobile TV service with a DMB-based phone from Samsung.