In the next few months, South Korean companies will launch competing terrestrial and satellite-based multimedia broadcasting services, marking one of the first commercial showdowns over digital video content for mobile phones.
It's a gamble involving millions of dollars and could set a precedent for companies in other countries seeking to market subscription services for streaming bits of video, music, and information.
South Korea, whose savvy consumers spend dead time on subways and buses glued to their cell phones, sending text messages and playing games, is prime territory for a test run.
Both satellite and terrestrial systems will be using the Digital Multimedia Broadcast (DMB) signal standard, derived from the Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) standard used for digital radio broadcasts in Europe.
LG and Samsung have made major investments in DMB and hope that it will also be adopted throughput Europe as a standard. At present the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has chosen the other competing technology, Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld (DVB-H). But ETSI recommendations for a standard are voluntary, not compulsory.
Which will it catch on remains to be seen. LG recently promoted its DMB standard at the 3GSM Conference at Cannes as requiring less infrastructure investment than DVB-H because of existing DAB services in many countries. However, such an argument may prove redundant, as a satellite system – which would have to be built from scratch – would have the advantage of immediately covering the whole country.