Japan's mobile TV battle

Mike Galbraith
Telecom Asia

NTT DoCoMo and KDDI have gone head to head in a beauty contest in a bid to win Japan's sole multimedia broadcasting license.
The license - which will be awarded by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) on the recommendation of the Radio Regulatory Commission (RRC) - comes with 14.5 MHZ of the VHF spectrum that will become available when analog TV broadcasting ceases in July 2011.

Takaaki Saeki, deputy director of the MIC's broadcasting policy division, said the department had accepted both the two technologies proposed - KDDI's MediaFLO and NTT DoCoMo's ISDB-Tmm.

On technology grounds it would appear that the proposal from DoCoMo subsidiary Multimedia Broadcasting Inc. (mmbi) is superior.  As mmbi has been keen to stress, MediaFLO will require eight times as many base stations for equivalent coverage, requiring twice as much investment as ISDB-Tmm.

However, the RRC has been so far unable to reach a decision. It was expected to issue the license in July, but now the announcement has been delayed until at least early September.

The battle to influence the outcome has brought DoCoMo president Ryuji Yamada into occasional direct conflict with KDDI president Tadashi Onadera.

KDDI has accused DoCoMo of dominating the mobile sector and that ISDB-Tmm is an unproven technology developed in Japan incompatible with international standards.

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