4/8/2009 11:31:00 AM
New spectrum band paves way for mobile TV in the UK
The prospect of mobile TV in the UK had a major breakthrough this week, as it emerged that the European Commission could release a new band of spectrum, earmarked for satellite companies, next month.
The move, which will be voted on in May, may see mobile operators forming MVNO-style partnerships with satellite companies to use the spectrum for new services, as well as expanding their 3G networks.
The European Commission has decided to pool the ‘S-band’ licence, rather than allocate it on a country-by-country basis, and is expected to give it to two satellite companies for use in 27 countries across Europe. It has said it would like the spectrum to be used to develop services such as mobile television.
It is expected that the 18 year licences will be awarded to the UK satellite operator, Inmarsat, as well as to Solaris - a joint venture between Luxembourg-based SES Astra and French company Eutelsat - who could then partner with mobile operators to make TV services available in countries including the UK.
Solaris chief executive Steve Maine has already confirmed that the satellite company is considering new services such as mobile TV, mobile radio, and traffic data for cars.
Strategy Analytics service director Phil Kendall said mobile operators could potentially ‘bundle the extra services into their propositions’, without ‘doing very much to handsets’.
The S-band spectrum is similar to the 3G spectrum so existing equipment such as masts and handsets can be reconfigured to work with it. Operators are expected to use this for expanding broadband services across Europe.
The spectrum could also be used to fill in gaps in the ‘digital divide’ and provide broadband access to remote areas in the UK, as part of Stephen Carter’s plans in his Digital Britain report.
One source from T-Mobile said the operator was ‘looking on with interest’ although it had no ‘immediate’ plans to use the spectrum. Other operators declined to comment as Mobile went to press.
Mobile TV has so far fallen short of development in the UK due to a combination of difficulties with DVB-H technology, adequate spectrum space and operators believing there is not enough consumer demand in a commercially viable model.