I have seen mobile TV working in Germany yesterday. It is DMB based and will commercially launch on May 31st in 8 cities across Germany.
DMB based Watcha Mobile TV Service Launched
At an event dubbed the 'Audience of One' in Munich yesterday evening, Mr. Henrik Rinnert (photo), CEO of Mobiles Fernsehen Deutschland GmbH (MFD), confirmed that his start-up will offer DMB based mobile TV in Germany in about 2 weeks. I had the chance to try the mobile TV service live on a Samsung SGH-P900. The image quality is impressive on the 2.2 inch screen. The broadcast is fluid and digital artifacts are only sometimes noticeable. The DMB broadcast was still just a test, and was just switched on the day before in Munich.
Henrik Rinnert, a Lawyer, has started MFD just end of last year. He was able to convince German regulators to get the frequency spectrum needed for DMB. He won against big guns, like Vodafone and large German media companies. It is somewhat a surprising fact that a small start-up is actually enabling mobile TV in Germany and not an established telco or media company. Mr. Rinnert explanation for this is that he and his investors are totally independent. This, and smart political backing secured the licenses for MFD for the next couple of years to build up a mobile TV infrastructure. As you know there is a big global war between the DMB and the DVB-H lobby. MFD chose DMB, because it can be deployed now. The frequency spectrums for DVB-H are currently not available on a nation-wide basis in Germany. It could take another couple of years until a nation-wide DVB-H roll-out is possible.
Another potentially important success factor for DMB is the existing DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) infrastructure in Germany. DAB is a commercial failure in Germany, but the infrastructure has about 90% coverage. Mr. Rinnert said that they are exploring currently the possibilities to upgrade the DAB infrastructure to support DMB. This could accelerate the nation-wide rollout dramatically and reduce cost. The DMB standard is based on DAB. Both standards have actually European origin. DMB has been adopted successfully in Korea, this is why many forget that it is actually an European standard.
MFD will launch with two TV handsets end of May. Early adopters will have the choice between the Samsung SGH-P900 and the LG-V9000 by LG. By the end of 2006 six DMB handsets should be on the market.
Only four TV channels will be available at launch: ZDF, MTV, N24 and a PRO7 produced channel.
The important question on everybody’s mind is of course; Will there be FIFA Soccer World Cup games broadcasted on the German mobile TV? This is a touchy subject. Fact is though that the ZDF is one of the available channels. ZDF will show half of all soccer matches. ARD the other public service TV station will show the other half (don't ask…). The FIFA and Infront, the Swiss company which owns the World Cup TV rights, see mobile TV as another chance to charge license fees, even if they already charged ZDF for it.
The mobile TV service and handsets will be sold initially by Debitel. Debitel is an independent mobile provider with access to the four main network operators. The monthly fee for using the mobile TV service will be around 10 Euros. There will be subsidized packages for the TV phones. No details have been announced yet on the exact pricing.
In conclusion, a small start-up company brings mobile TV to Germany in time for the Soccer World Cup. Will they succeed? The chances are quite good:
1. MFD has the first mover advantage.
2. Due to the regulatory situation MFD is over the next couple of years the only nation-wide DMB based mobile TV provider in Germany.
3. The existing DAB infrastructure could play a key role for the success
4. Mr Rinnert, albeit a Lawyer, has the drive and skills to make it happen.
A word of advice to Nokia and Sony Ericsson, Germany needs DMB based handsets. You might not be selling any DVB-H based handsets anytime soon here.
See also the Mobiles Fernsehen Deutschland site.
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