EC throws weight behind DVB-H

The European Commission is believed to have prepared a document supporting DVB-H as the standard of choice for mobile TV in Europe.

Furthermore, the commission is also expected to add DVB-H to the list of standards published in its official journal, which implies that EU countries are required to encourage the use of DVB-H.

The move is expected to stir up a hornets nest in a sector of the industry currently struggling with wide fragmentation. The EC’s apparent favouritism of DVB-H has drawn criticism and calls that it is at odds with the concept of “technology neutrality” that is supposedly at the heart of the telecoms package announced by the EC in early 2004.

In April, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, has come under fire from the WorldDMB Forum, a consortium promoting the DAB/DMB standard worldwide, after breaking her pledge to encourage technology neutrality by backing DVB-H.

“I am prepared to give strong support to European standardised solutions, such as DVB-H,” Reding said at the time.

In light of the recent developments, Vincent Poulbere, analyst at Ovum, commented that the willingness of the EU to promote a single standard for mobile broadcast in Europe has generated much debate among industry players, but questioned the real impact of this latest move.

“The main barrier is the lack of spectrum in the UHF frequency band. Due to its current use for TV transmission, there is very little – or no – resource left in UHF for the deployment of mobile broadcast, and this situation is forecast to remain until the digital TV switch-over,” he said.

It is widely accepted that many major industry players in Europe would have started deployments of DVB-H in UHF if spectrum were more available and it has been shown that it is the lack of UHF spectrum which has encouraged the technology fragmentation, with rival technologies which are adapted to other more available or already allocated bands, like T-DMB, TDtv, satellite or MBMS.

“The EC’s move does not address this critical issue of spectrum availability, and hence won’t change much of the current situation of DVB-H in Europe,” Poulbere said.

On the other hand, DVB-H is already emerging as the preferred solution for mobile operators in four out of the five biggest EU countries: Italy, France, Germany and Spain. So in the longer term, the EC’s decision will likely secure DVB-H’s position in Europe, but in the short term, the effects will probably be negligible, and market fragmentation is likely to continue.

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