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The Wireless Blog from Unwired Insight discusses the latest developments in wireless networks and services, including the new technologies and architectures of LTE-Advanced and 5G. For expert advice on 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile systems and standards, including GSM, UMTS, LTE, LTE-Advanced and 5G-NR, please contact us.

Mobile TV for 3G offloading?

Photograph of Mark Heath3G operators may choose to use dedicated broadcasting networks, or 3G broadcasting solutions, to deliver mobile TV and radio services. Some 3G operators could build their own networks, while others could share.

In Europe, some 3G operators are interested in DVB-H, particularly now that mainstream mobile handset vendors such as Nokia are planning to offer a range of mobile handsets with a combination of 3G and DVB-H capabilities. Several countries have launched mobile television services using the DVB-H standard. DVB-H services have been commercially launched in Austria, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Italy was the earliest market to experience widespread deployment of DVB-H. In June 2006, 3 Italia was the first 3G operator in the world to launch DVB-H services, offering 12 TV channels with coverage of 60% of the Italian population. Within one year of its launch, 3 Italia had 719 000 DVB-H customers. TIM and Vodafone launched DVB-H services in Italy during 2006. In June 2008, 3 Italia announced that it was offering DVB-H customers free access to six TV channels (RAI 1, RAI 2, Mediaset, Sky Meteo24, Current TV and the new La3). In February 2009, 3 Austria announced that it had 90 000 subscribers to its DVB-H mobile TV service, which was launched in June 2008.

Broadcasting technologies other than DVB-H are also being deployed, particularly outside Europe. Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) is a video and multimedia technology based on DAB, which has been widely adopted in South Korea. Satellite (S-DMB) and terrestrial (T-DMB) services were launched in South Korea in May and December 2005. According to South Korea’s Terrestrial-DMB Broadcaster’s Committee, 15.4 million terrestrial DMB devices, including mobile phones, were sold by the end of 2008, representing a 70% increase from the previous year. In May 2009, mobile TV services using DMB were launched in Norway, initially available in Greater Oslo (covering 30% of Norway’s population).

MediaFLO is a proprietary mobile TV broadcasting technology, developed by Qualcomm, which has gained traction in the USA. In December 2005, Qualcomm and Verizon Wireless announced plans for nationwide commercial launch of MediaFLO services. AT&T launched a mobile TV service based on MediaFLO in May 2009.

There are a number of emerging broadcasting network technologies, for example, Mobile DTV and DVB-SH. Following the adoption of the Mobile DTV specification by the ATSC, plans are underway in the USA to roll out services to reach about one-third of the US population by the end of 2009. Published by ETSI in March 2008, DVB-SH enables the delivery of mobile TV services using satellite. Whenever a line of sight between terminal and satellite does not exist, terrestrial gap fillers can be employed to provide coverage. In April 2008, a satellite was launched, aimed at providing a nationwide DVB-SH service in the USA. In April 2009, a DVB-SH satellite aimed at providing mobile TV services in six European countries was launched, with commercial services expected by the end of 2009.

3G provides its own broadcasting solution in the form of MBMS. MBMS allows 3G operators to use part of their paired spectrum allocation to deliver multimedia content simultaneously to a group of (or all) users in an area. An enhanced version of MBMS, termed eMBMS, will be possible on LTE networks. 3G operators that have been allocated unpaired (TDD) 3G spectrum also have the option of deploying the 3GPP Release 8 Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB) standard. This potentially provides 3G operators with a dedicated broadcasting capability that uses unpaired 3G spectrum, and is actively being promoted by IPWireless.

Dr Mark Heath co-founded Unwired Insight in 2001, to provide analysis and market intelligence for the mobile telecommunications industry. Previously he contributed to the standardisation of GSM, UMTS and DECT and held senior roles for a mobile network operator and equipment manufacturer. Mark has written over 40 industry reports and has advised investors, network operators, equipment vendors, lawyers and government bodies.

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