A European Commission plan to simplify the licensing of Europe-wide mobile satellite services could boost the nascent market for broadcast TV services on handheld devices.
With a general agreement on the DVB-H (digital video broadcasting - handheld) standard now in place, mobile operators across Europe are looking for economic ways of launching broadcast mobile TV services that send signals directly to handsets. While some companies plan to invest in building terrestrial systems to carry the signals, others are more interested in establishing mobile satellite services to provide coverage in not one but several markets, according to the Commission.
With its one-stop-shop proposal, the Commission hopes to overcome a current hurdle in Europe for providing satellite services: operators need to apply for a licence in each individual country, which often have different regulations and requirements. A new body, organised by the Commission in cooperation with regulators in the member states, would be responsible for assessing applications based on common technical and commercial criteria and for selecting operators, which would then be authorised by national regulators.
The Commission hopes to win support for the new mobile satellite communications authority later this year when the region's telecommunications policy comes up for review.
Several European mobile phone companies, including Vodafone, have expressed interest in mobile satellite technology for TV service as well as broadband data.
In addition to reaching consumers in rural areas and in more than one national market, satellite-to-mobile phone communications could also overcome Europe's tight spectrum availability.
Alcatel-Lucent, for instance, proposes using the widely available S-Band frequency reserved for satellites to transmit broadcast signals via satellite to mobile phones based on the DVB-H standard, instead of the UHF band. The UHF band is typically used for TV transmissions in Europe but has little or no capacity to spare.
The Alcatel-Lucent proposal calls for equipping base stations with S-Band repeaters and, in addition, using satellites capable of transmitting in the S-Band to deliver content to 3G phones enabled with DVB-H technology in three different ways: base-station streaming, base-station broadcasting and satellite broadcasting.