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Mobile TV fans get new options

Redirect home TV to your mobile phone

Phone users can look forward to a more extensive TV programming choice, following announcements made at the Symbian Smartphone Show in London.

Two new services will allow people to redirect TV programming from their home TVs to their mobile phones.

Sling Media announced that it plans to offer SlingPlayer Mobile software compatible with Symbian phones. The software, expected to be available in the fourth quarter, will allow Slingbox users to watch TV on their mobile phones over Wi-Fi or 3G (third-generation) connections.

Slingbox users connect the box to the cable or satellite receivers in their homes and then can watch programmes remotely, typically on a PC with a broadband connection, and now on Symbian phones.

A version of SlingPlayer Mobile is already available for Windows Mobile devices. But Sling Media introduced the Slingbox to several international markets earlier this year and recognised the need to create software for Symbian, which runs a large majority of smartphones in Europe, said Brian Jaquet, a Sling Media spokesman.

Separately, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB announced a similar service on Tuesday. Users of some Sony Ericsson phones can download new software to watch TV via Sony's LocationFree service, a similar offering to the Slingbox.

The companies launching the services had mixed feelings about whether they will compete with or complement existing mobile TV services. Some operators already stream TV programmes to mobile users and many operators are developing services that will broadcast content to mobile phones using networks that haven't yet been built.

"Mobile TV will be a different kind of programming," said Mikael Nerde, head of content planning and developer program product and application planning for Sony Ericsson. He expects that the mobile TV offerings, such as the streaming or broadcast services, will include special content developed with the mobile user in mind. The LocationFree offering, by contrast, will deliver the same programming available on TVs, including longer segments. The content may appeal to different users and in different situations.

But executives from Symbian and Sling Media expect the offerings to compete with mobile TV initiatives. "Slingbox could be disruptive to the other mobile TV services," said Andy Brannan, executive vice president of sales and customer operations for Symbian.

Sling Media agrees. "We compete with mobile TV service offerings," Jaquet said. "However we think it's great to have this to drive subscribers to use 3G networks."

While some operators may be pleased to drive traffic to their broadband networks, they also stand to lose some additional revenue if users choose the Sling Media or Sony offerings. Mobile operators typically charge a monthly fee, in addition to charges for access to their wireless data networks, for mobile TV services. With the Sling Media and Sony offerings, end users don't have to pay a monthly fee in addition to access fees to watch TV on their phones.

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