Mobile television is the transmission of traditional and on-demand audiovisual content to a mobile device. It includes live and time-shifted TV. It is therefore broader than broadcasting alone. In today's Commission Communication "Mobile TV" refers to broadcast terrestrial mobile TV services only.
Mobile TV is a prime example of digital convergence which can generate new business opportunities and benefit consumers. By bringing audiovisual content to mobile terminals, mobile TV is at the cutting edge of high-value, innovative services. It unites personal mobile communications, one of Europe's most dynamic markets, with the richness and diversity of its audiovisual sector.
Mobile TV allows consumers not only to watch TV while on the move but also to have access to personalised, time-shifted and on-demand audiovisual content. It represents a tremendous opportunity for Europe to maintain and expand its leadership in mobile technology and mobile services. Mobile TV could potentially be a significant source of growth, investment and jobs for Europe, thus contributing to the success of the renewed Lisbon Strategy.
Currently, the Commission sees a strong risk of market fragmentation in Europe, due to many technical options for mobile TV. Only a common European strategy, actively promoted by all Member States and stakeholders will enable consumers and industry to reap the full benefits of economies of scale. Such a common strategy will also lead to a genuine single market for audiovisual content and multimedia services, unhindered by potentially 27 different sets of national rules, the uncoordinated use of spectrum and a lack of interoperability.
Therefore, the Commission, together with industry and national authorities, is acting in several key areas to help create a pan-European mobile TV market.
Since industry so far could not agree on a single standard for mobile TV, commercial launches of mobile TV are delayed. Europe's competitors, most notably from Asia, have made significant progress – partly due to state intervention –, and Europe risks losing its competitive edge unless sufficient momentum is achieved.
This is why there is a need to develop a "blueprint" for mobile TV in Europe. Today, the mobile TV market is still at a very early stage. Whilst 2006 was a key year in terms of pilots and announcements, 2008 is generally expected to be a crucial year for mobile TV take-up in the EU. This is because several important sports events, such as the European Football Championship and the Summer Olympic Games, will provide a unique opportunity for increasing consumers' awareness and their adoption of new mobile TV services.
Commercial mobile TV already exists in some countries in Europe. But it is still an emerging market, with services being only recently launched or still in their pilot phases. In Italy 3 Italia launched nationwide services in May 2006, with Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) and Mediaset following in June 2006, and then Vodafone in December 2006. The estimated number of Mobile TV users in Italy today is around 500.000. In Finland, the licence to operate a network was awarded to Digita in March 2006, and their commercial launch took place in June 2007. In Germany, Mobiles Fernsehen Deutschland launched the commercial service "Watcha" in June 2006, in time for the Football World Cup 2006. In France trials took place in 2006 and a national service is planned for 2007. In Spain a national service is planned for 2007. In the United Kingdom BT was the first company outside Korea to implement mobile TV. Trials are also taking place in several other EU countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Ireland, Sweden and The Netherlands.
Most research foresees a steep increase in demand in 2009 and ambitious estimates predict the worldwide mobile broadcasting market reaching a €20 billion turnover in 2015 and already some €7-9 million by around 2010-11. Gartner research even questions charging for mobile TV as a separate service. Most current business models rely on offering mobile TV as part of a service package.
Some analysts predict an impressive 68.7 million subscribers in Europe by 2011. Others see the big turn in favour of mobile TV coming already in 2009, when revenue and subscriber figures of mobile TV rocket and overtake 3G, with Europe maintaining a lead position in the mobile entertainment market, producing an estimated 32% share of total worldwide mobile entertainment revenues in 2011.
Broadcast mobile TV subscriber uptake
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
The Commission has been supporting the development of mobile TV technology by promoting international cooperation in research, development and standardisation for digital television. It has committed some €40 million for mobile TV research under the EU’s 6th research programme (2002-2006). EU-funded research has been instrumental in developing and validating the digital video broadcasting (DVB) standards, which has led to the mobile broadcasting standard DVB-H.
The EU's research programme has notably pioneered key audiovisual digital technologies such as image compression, robust transmission, interactivity, mobility and content protection yielding major contributions to international standardisation fora such as MPEG. European industry has fully benefited from these efforts through developments of products and associated key Intellectual Property Rights portfolios.
Networked audiovisual technologies will continue to be supported under the new ICT research programme (see IP/06/1589).
In 2006, the Commission launched a dialogue with all stakeholders to identify and address the issues surrounding emerging mobile TV services. In particular, the Commission facilitated the setting up of an industry umbrella group, the European Mobile Broadcasting Council (EMBC), a forum which gathered together for the first time, all the main industry players including broadcasters, manufacturers, content providers and telecom operators.
What is the DVB?
DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) is an industry consortium that develops standards for digital television broadcasting. The DVB transmission standards (DVB-C for cable, DVB-S for satellite and DVB-T for terrestrial) have universal acceptance in Europe. DVB-H (handheld) is the DVB standard for terrestrial mobile TV. For more on DVB: http://www.dvb.org
Worldwide there is strong interest in mobile TV. South Korea is at the forefront of this developing sector. Mobile phone users have been able to watch seven channels of live pay TV, delivered via satellite, since May 2005 and a free-to-air terrestrial mobile TV service went live in Seoul late last year. In Japan, mobile TV attracts more than 7 million customers. In the US, mobile phone users have been accessing live broadcast TV since late 2003. In China, the government is pushing for mobile TV availability in the Beijing area for the 2008 Olympic Games. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television backs the development of a China Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting (CMMB) standard and is advocating its adoption as China's main mobile TV technology. Their goal is to deploy nationally CMMB in the first half of 2008.
As a result of the 2006 stakeholder consultation, three main factors were identified as key to the successful introduction of mobile TV:
1) Standards/ interoperability
Currently in Europe, there is a risk of market fragmentation as there are several mobile TV technologies for different platforms. DVB-H appears to be the strongest contender for future mobile TV deployment in Europe. It is already the most widely-used standard in Europe and is also becoming popular worldwide. About 40 DVB-H pilot networks have been implemented for trials all over the world, including the US and Asia.
The Commission therefore considers that DVB-H will form the basis for successful introduction and take-up of terrestrial mobile TV services in the EU. It will continue to monitor the situation in the EU and may come forward with proposals in 2008 including, if appropriate, making this open standard mandatory.
Meanwhile, the Commission will encourage industry dialogue so that a wide consensus over DVB-H implementations can be achieved. Furthermore, the Commission intends to add DVB-H to the EU's official list of standards published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Spectrum is a key resource for new wireless services such as mobile TV. There is a clear need to ensure that new innovative services have enough suitable radio frequencies to be deployed across Europe (see IP/05/1199).
In this respect, the Commission has acted to ensure that mobile TV can benefit from some EU harmonised frequencies soon. Member States' experts are currently examining the possibility to open up the use of a frequency - the so called L-Band – to multimedia services including mobile TV.
However, these measures need to be accompanied by a longer-term strategy. The Commission has launched a debate on the future use of the digital dividend, which is the spectrum that will be released by the switchover from analogue to digital TV. It is working closely with the “Radio Spectrum Policy Group” to define an EU-wide approach to introducing mobile TV systems and to the use of the dividend. This Group has already adopted two opinions on multimedia services and on use of the digital dividend. The Commission is working to publish a Communication on the Digital Dividend later this year which will set out its policy on this issue.
In addition, the Commission, with the help of the Member States has successfully clarified the applicable regulatory regime enabling pan European mobile TV satellite systems to be deployed within harmonised frequency bands (see IP/07/205).
A regulatory environment that favours investment and innovation is also crucial to the take-up of any emerging service. Regulatory obstacles have to be identified and removed in a timely manner. Mobile TV is a nascent market and should therefore be subject to light touch regulation. Authorisation and licensing remain the responsibility of national authorities. However, the Commission will encourage them to identify and to share best practice.
Mobile TV services may also acquire in the future a clear pan-European dimension. It will then be important to reflect on common authorisation conditions across the EU. The Commission will itself provide guidance on regulatory issues related to the authorisation of mobile TV services.
Currently in Europe there are three main technology families for delivering broadcast content to mobile terminals:
1. Cellular broadcast such as the MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Service) extension to the third generation mobile phone standard, UMTS;
2. Terrestrial digital broadcast networks and their extensions, such as DVB-H (DVB transmission to handheld terminals), based on the terrestrial digital TV standard DVB-T; T-DMB (Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting), based on the terrestrial Digital Audio Broadcast standard, DAB; MediaFLO (Media Forward Link Only);
3. Hybrid satellite/terrestrial systems, such as DVB-SH which is part of the DVB family of standards.
Although mobile TV is already available on existing cellular infrastructures (3G/UMTS) in one-to-one (unicast) mode, broadcast is much better to deliver the same content to many users at the same time. This would help achieve mass-market deployment.
Researchers are also working on a common internet–based framework that will contribute to interoperability of mobile TV standards.
DVB-H, has been developed by industry via the DVB group and is recognised as an open standard by ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. DVB-H is already today the most widely-used standard in Europe and is also becoming popular worldwide. DVB-H is compatible with DVB-T, the technology used for terrestrial TV everywhere in Europe. DVB-H has been developed with the participation of many major players in the European and international mobile industry and with support by EU research funding. The majority of European and international manufacturers propose DVB-H equipment and systems solutions as DVB-H is a fully standardised system.
DVB-H offers an opportunity for mobile TV services to develop the economies of scale they need for uptake across Europe and globally. A common standard provides certainty concerning technological decisions, avoids the risk of market fragmentation and enables economies of scale which will result in lower prices for consumers and faster take-up. Interoperability remains an important objective.
The Commission is not choosing a winner. The market in Europe is already largely in favour of DVB-H. Unlike Austria, the Commission is so far not mandating a single technology by legislation, but instead gives the market the clear signal that she should move voluntarily but quickly to a single standard.
DVB-H deployment in EU Member States
AT, BE, CZ, DE, ES, FR, HU, IE, LT, LU, NL, PT, SE, SI, UK
The Commission is committed to supporting open standards like DVB-H. However, the Commission's support to DVB-H is subject to the condition that there is certainty about technology licensing terms and conditions.
In her Hannover speech at the world's largest technology fair, CeBIT, Mrs Reding specified that "without this certainty and predictability, it will be impossible to invest with confidence in new innovative technologies" (see SPEECH 07/154). The Commission will continue to actively follow the issue of DVB-H licensing terms, to ensure and to increase market confidence.
The Commission decided today to prepare the addition of DVB-H to the list of standards in the EU's Official Journal. What is the legal effect of this public support for DVB-H?
The List of Standards in the EU's Official Journal serves as a basis for fostering the harmonised provision of electronic communications networks and services in Europe's single market. Member States are required to encourage the implementation and use of standards from the List.
How does the possibility of mandating a standard relate to the Commission policy of technology neutrality?
Technological neutrality is a very important principle underpinning Commission policy. However, under EU law, a departure from this principle is possible in specific cases where justified by market development, the need for economies of scale, interoperability and freedom of choice for users.
In the case of mobile TV, political choices have to be made if these new services are to be taken up on a large scale in Europe, and citizens are to benefit from this. In the past such a political choice was made with the GSM standard for mobile phones, which as a result became successful worldwide.
Currently must-carry is not an issue as mobile TV is an emerging service. "Must-carry" can only be imposed under national legislation, and only if a significant number of consumers use mobile TV networks as their principal means to receive radio and television broadcasts.
If mobile TV becomes so successful that it becomes the principal means to receive TV the case would have to be reconsidered.
Article 17 of Directive 2002/21/EC
1. The Commission, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 22(2), shall draw up and publish in the Official Journal of the European Communities a list of standards and/or specifications to serve as a basis for encouraging the harmonised provision of electronic communications networks, electronic communications services and associated facilities and services. Where necessary, the Commission may, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 22(2) and following consultation of the Committee established by Directive 98/34/EC, request that standards be drawn up by the European standards organisations (European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), and European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)).
2. Member States shall encourage the use of the standards and/or specifications referred to in paragraph 1, for the provision of services, technical interfaces and/or network functions, to the extent strictly necessary to ensure interoperability of services and to improve freedom of choice for users.
As long as standards and/or specifications have not been published in accordance with paragraph 1, Member States shall encourage the implementation of standards and/or specifications adopted by the European standards organisations.
In the absence of such standards and/or specifications, Member States shall encourage the implementation of international standards or recommendations adopted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) or the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
Where international standards exist, Member States shall encourage the European standards organisations to use them, or the relevant parts of them, as a basis for the standards they develop, except where such international standards or relevant parts would be ineffective.
3. If the standards and/or specifications referred to in paragraph 1 have not been adequately implemented so that interoperability of services in one or more Member States cannot be ensured, the implementation of such standards and/or specifications may be made compulsory under the procedure laid down in paragraph 4, to the extent strictly necessary to ensure such interoperability and to improve freedom of choice for users.
4. Where the Commission intends to make the implementation of certain standards and/or specifications compulsory, it shall publish a notice in the Official Journal of the European Communities and invite public comment by all parties concerned. The Commission, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 22(3), shall make implementation of the relevant standards compulsory by making reference to them as compulsory standards in the list of standards and/or specifications published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.
 The open standard DVB-H is supported, inter alia, by manufacturers such as Nokia, Motorola, Philips, Sagem, Pace, Sony, Ericsson as well as by mobile operators such as Vodafone, O2 and T-Mobile. In April 2007, Nokia and Samsung agreed to cooperate in developing devices on the basis of DVB-H.
 DMB, co-developed at its very beginning by research institutes in Europe, has subsequently been adapted mainly by manufacturers and mobile operators outside Europe, such as LG, Perstel, JVC, Panasonic, Ienovo, Pantech, Sansui, Mercury, Zen Networks, Cowon, and Hyundai Autonet. Samsung, initially developing products on the basis of DMB only, agreed in April 2007 with Nokia to cooperate in developing devices on the basis of DVB-H.