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Mobile DTV Alliance Formed to Promote Best Practices for DVB-H Standard

On January 23, 2006, six leading companies in the mobile market joined together to form the Mobile Digital Television (DTV) Alliance in order to encourage the development and deployment of the Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld (DVB-H) standard in the U.S. These companies included Texas Instruments, Nokia, Motorola, Intel, and Modeo.

The Alliance has two primary goals. "One is the promotion of DVB-H as a standard for mobile broadcast in the U.S. The second is to create an ecosystem that is fully interoperable around DVB-H," says Yoram Solomon, director of strategic marketing and industry relations for TI’s mobile connectivity solutions division and president of the Alliance.

While DVB-H was adopted as an ETSI standard in November 2004 and has been deployed across much of Europe and Asia, it has not yet gained a foothold in the U.S. But the Alliance aims to change that soon.

Here’s a look into what the DVB-H standard is, what its adoption may mean for the U.S.’s mobile market, and how the Alliance plans to spur the accelerated adoption of DVB-H among U.S. mobile carriers.

A Look at DVB-H
Streaming video to a cell phone is nothing new; many major U.S. carriers are already providing or developing value-added, video-based services. What DVB-H brings to the table is a new model for deploying that content, one that harkens to the video distribution of yesteryear. "I think it’s really important to note the difference between how video is streaming today to handsets and what DVB-H enables," says Solomon. "DVB-H is solely focused on broadcast, whereas mobile streaming today is done on-demand. With on-demand content, you’re typically using a unicast network where you can choose whatever content you want and you’ll be the only person who’s getting it. Broadcast powered by DVB-H is more similar to traditional TV."

With mobile carriers already streaming video to cell phones, why is there a need for a new method and standard for delivering mobile video? "Really when you think about it, cellular communication is a one-to-one connection between me the content provider and me," says Solomon. "Think about the consumption of one additional minute by one additional consumer using a unicast or current 3G network. If I’m using that minute, somebody’s going to pay for it. Broadcast, on the other hand, has no incremental cost. Once the infrastructure is in place and the content’s paid for, the usage of one additional consumer at one additional minute doesn’t have any incremental cost."

For content that’s highly perishable and has the potential to draw large audiences at one time, such as sporting events and big news stories, the need for a way to deliver video without incurring incremental delivery costs is clear and apparent. "The general notion is that in a world where you have tens of millions of people who want to watch a broadcast, delivering that video via DVB-H will result in less of a hit on the network," says Mark Donovan, VP and senior analyst for M:Metrics, a market research firm that measures the supply and demand of content on mobile platforms. "That in general is a big driving force behind this."

Beyond reduced delivery costs, DVB-H also has other advantages, such as a more familiar mode for consumers to find the content they want. "With mobile phones, you’re dealing with a much more limited user interface than you have in a PC world. A result of that is that content discovery becomes a formidable challenge for any sort of content-driven data service," says Donovan. "One of the upsides of the TV broadcast model is that you’re pretty much able to simplify content discovery. The user experience is something that’s very familiar, flipping through channels as opposed to hunting and pecking through."

An Opening to the Walled Garden?
An interesting aspect of DVB-H is that it doesn’t exist totally within a mobile carrier’s network but instead brings outside media sources into that network. "The big thing that DVB-H does is that it pulls that rich media content off of and outside of the mobile network," says Donovan.

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