DVB-H named nonmandatory EU standard

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BRUSSELS -- DVB-H will be named as a European Union standard for mobile television broadcasting, but it will be nonmandatory, European governments said here Thursday.

The failure to agree on a mandatory standard is a blow to the European Commission, which had hoped that forcing DVB-H as the only technology would speed up the adoption of mobile TV.

The commission says the Nokia and Motorola-supported DVB-H format is the "strongest contender" for an EU-wide standard. EU Media and Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding argues that the current plethora of standards has complicated the introduction of mobile TV.

But concerns from big EU governments including Germany, Britain, Spain and the Netherlands meant Reding's plans were watered down. At a meeting in Brussels, EU telecoms ministers said that although DVB-H had the potential to become the most common standard, it should be left to the market to decide which technology emerges in the end. The ministers also said that it was important to maintain "technology neutrality" for the time being.

"It is premature to consider intervening in the market for mobile TV," U.K. telecoms minister Stephen Timms said, adding that industry and consumers should decide which solutions suit their needs. "All currently competing standards should be listed, not just DVB-H," he said.

Reding said that putting DVB-H technology in the official list in February would be enough to ensure its de facto position as the European mobile TV standard. She said the DVB-H standard would be "legally encouraged" among all EU member states, and could be mandated as of next year. Reding added that 2008 would be crucial for mobile TV take-up as people would want to watch the Beijing Summer Olympic Games and the European Football Championship on handsets.

Rival technologies to DVB-H include one provided by U.S. group Qualcomm, and DMB, widely in use in South Korea. DVB-H has been commercially launched in Italy and Finland, with trials in 18 other EU countries. But while South Korea has a mobile TV penetration rate of 10%, the rate in Italy, the EU's most advanced market, is less than 1%.
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