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EC calls for unity on mobile TV

Governments and companies must work together

The EC is backing a law to encourage development of mobile television content in Europe, but European companies and governments also have a role to play if the medium is to take off, according to Commissioner for the Information Society, Viviane Reding.

Mobile television is one of the hot topics at CeBit this year, with many manufacturers exhibiting such technologies at the show. Some are predicting that as many as half of Europe's mobile phone users could subscribe to mobile television services, perhaps 200 million in total, said Reding yesterday at the International CeBit Forum in Hannover, Germany.

European network operators all use GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) technology for telephony, meaning that subscribers from one country can use the same phone to make calls anywhere on the continent.

"Consumers expect continuity of service whenever they cross national borders," Reding said.

However, there is no consensus in Europe on the technology to use for mobile television transmissions, and the medium is subject to different regulations in each country, making international interoperability uncertain at best, she said.

The EC's proposed modernisation of the Television Without Frontiers directive will make mobile television content subject to the law of its country of origin, rather than the various laws of the countries where it may be viewed, making life easier for content developers and distributors, Reding said.

That alone won't be enough to ensure the success of the medium, she said.

If European network operators and equipment manufacturers are to achieve the economies of scale necessary to make such services affordable, then they must agree to use a single, European technology standard for transmissions, she said.

There is also the question of radio spectrum, an increasingly scarce resource.

With analogue television services due to end in 2012, Europe stands to benefit from a "digital dividend" when the spectrum they used is reallocated to services based on digital technologies.

The US has already allocated a single, nationwide frequency band for digital mobile TV services, and China is contemplating such a move, she said.

In Europe, "access to frequencies is characterised by a patchwork of national approaches, which haven't kept pace with technology developments," she said.

To remain competitive, European governments must agree on a consistent way of licensing and charging for the radio spectrum released by the termination of analogue TV services, she said. National governments will meet to agree a framework for the use of radio spectrum worldwide at two forthcoming international conferences: EU member states must take a united approach to negotiations at the conferences, the Regional Radio Conference this year, and the World Radio Conference in 2007, she said.

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