Alcatel-Lucent is developing with several partners a hybrid TV service for mobile handsets that combines satellite and terrestrial broadcasting into a seamless offering.
Olivier Coste, president of Alcatel-Lucent Mobile Broadcast, said the service already is operating on a trial basis in South Korea, Japan and Italy and will likely expand to other parts of Europe in 2009 after additional satellites are launched and formal adoption of broadcast-to-handheld standards occurs by members of the DVB Forum.
The Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB) is an industry-led consortium of more 260 broadcasters, manufacturers, network operators, software developers and regulatory bodies in over 35 countries. The organization is designing global standards for the global delivery of digital television and data services. Officials say services using DVB standards are available on every continent with more than 120 million DVB receivers already deployed. The new standard would take this work down into the handheld market, Coste said.
'There is a real potential mass market behind mobile TV,' said Coste. 'Hybrid deployment is an ideal solution,' he added, because the approach provides seamless reception on handheld devices inside and outside structures, is highly flexible and offers consumers a wide programming choice.
'It is totally seamless,' Coste explained. 'The [mobile] device gets the best signal possible, the same signal on the same frequency whether from the terrestrial or satellite network. It is a cost-effective tool for broadcasting video coverage over large territories.'
Coste said Alcatel-Lucent and its partners, which include chipset manufacturers such as Phillips and DiBcomm and vendors such as Samsung and Sagem Commuunication, have invested more than $130 million in the venture.
The new mobile solution, which utilizes 2.2-GHz spectrum, already has been deployed in Italy, South Korea and Japan and could be deployed elsewhere in Europe by early 2009. Discussions are also underway with officials in China. It allows service providers to deliver mobile phone and video service to subscribers on small, personal smart devices. Alcatel-Lucent is providing the technology to operate the service, but it does not own the actual infrastructure.
Coste said there are more than two million subscribers paying about $12 monthly for the Korean service launched 18 months ago and 700,000 in Italy paying about $35 monthly. The Japanese service has been less successful, in part because it was marketed initially as a dedicated mobile TV offering that did not include mobile voice. Voice now has been included, Coste said.
He also said discussions about the service are underway with service providers in China using a slightly different spectrum - 2.6 GHz. The hope is to deploy the service for the Bejing 2008 Summer Olympics.
He added that in all countries competing service providers are providing the mobile video service, often after partnerships are formed between local broadcasters, mobile phone operators and/or traditional telcos.
Deploying the service can be a complex and slow-moving process as three key events have to occur: a satellite must be operating, terrestrial repeaters must be functioning and terminals must be in place. Other potential bottlenecks involve obtaining the necessary spectrum and regulatory approval, which can vary from government to government.
'In Europe it is considered more of a natural evolution because it is compliant with existing DVB coverage,' Coste explained.