Orange to launch mobile HD TV

France Telecom’s mobile unit Orange France is gearing up to launch high definition mobile TV on Thursday.

Details are scant, but analyst reports reveal that the service will only be available over HSDPA to start with followed later by dedicated mobile broadcast technology. Initially there will only be one handset available, from Samsung. The offering will cost Eur12 per month.

Orange said on Tuesday that its plan is to put high definition technology at the heart of its products and services. The operator launched high definition voice and digital TV in the summer.

In association with the service launch, Orange will be offering exclusive content related to Luc Besson’s forthcoming animation, “Arthur and the Minimoys”.

The operator will make “mobiseances” available on its Orange World mobile portal, providing 21 episodes, each around 2 minutes long, featuring characters from the film.

Thomas Husson, analyst at Jupiter Research, who has seen the Mobile HD TV service, said his first reaction was to think “let’s continue the hype around mobile TV and over-promise the benefit to consumers.”

Husson believes it may be too early to launch such a label and wonders how the ‘DVB-H like’ experience will be pitched. “I know their approach is to be technology-agnostic but still the quality of service will have to be seriously monitored, particularly taking into account the fact that even with HSDPA, the number of users able to watch simultaneously the same content is limited,” he said.

The move appears to be part of France Telecom’s CEO Didier Lombard’s strategy to ensure the company takes a full role in the distribution of entertainment content. Last week, the firm said it will invest in movie production, both home-grown and foreign and has an investment chest worth around Eur10m although the group did say that investment could be increased significantly in the future.

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