Asia: Tuning into Mobile TV

A broadcast technology that beams digital TV to millions of mobile handsets in Japan and Korea will make its debut in Indonesia

Indonesian electronics company PT Agis announced Monday that it has teamed up with IPTV systems integrator Broadband Network Systems (BNS) and Japanese company Toshiba, to construct a nationwide broadcast-based mobile TV network based on the Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) technology.

The project, if successfully completed, would make the Southeast Asian nation only the third country--after Japan and South Korea--to adopt the digital broadcast standard on a nationwide scale.

"With a youthful population, and low but fast-growing mobile penetration, Indonesia is the perfect market for a broadcast-based mobile TV service," said Anna Maria, senior officer at Agis, in a joint statement.

Engineered for the mobile environment, DMB is one of several technologies competing to become a global standard for delivering broadcast TV to handsets. Other competing standards include DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld) and Media-Flo.

The ITU-adopted standard was invented by Toshiba in 1996, and is currently adopted by over 2 million subscribers, according to Agis and its partners. The companies said they chose to adopt DMB primarily because of its efficient spectrum usage, which enables terrestrial transmissions across longer distances.

Jeffrey Soong, CEO of Hong Kong-based BNS, explained: "Frequency for DMB is assigned regionally, which provides efficient spectrum usage and is a major advantage over other technologies that require UHF (ultra-high frequency) frequencies."

It makes the technology "ideal for a vast country like Indonesia", said Soong, because a broadcaster can blanket the country's 200-plus regions with just a single frequency. Soong added that, unlike cellular-based 3G streaming, DMB does not require extensive telecoms infrastructure and can scale as easily as a TV broadcast.

In preparation for the service launch early next year, Agis said it is in talks with potential partners including mobile operators and content owners on potential collaboration opportunities. As part of the agreement, the company said that it will import and distribute DMB-capable mobile handsets and devices throughout Indonesia.

Other details of the service such as the service name, launch date, subscription details, device cost and content line up will be announced at a later stage, according to Agis.

According to analyst Datamonitor, the global mobile TV subscriber base is expected to swell to 65.6 million in 2010 and more than double to 155.6 million by the end of 2012, a year-on-year growth rate of 66.2 percent.

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