Mobile network O2 today announced positive results from the mobile TV trial it's undertaking in Oxford.
However, spokesman Mike Short admitted it could be years before the service goes nationwide in the UK.
The TV-on-your-phone service uses a digital broadcast technology known as DVB-H, which means it needs its own part of the increasingly busy radio spectrum – ideally at the ultra-high frequencies (UHF) currently used by conventional television and mobile phones. Until the UK's analogue television signals are switched off in 2012 it's unlikely that UHF bandwidth will be available.
Which means it’s unlikely that Brits will get TV shows broadcast to their mobile phones before the London Olympics – despite the fact that mobile TV is already available in Korea, and imminent in Italy, Finland and America.
Current 3G TV services – such as the Sky Mobile TV on Vodafone Live! – are only feasible for a limited number of connections, according to 02. It may be possible to use alternative broadcast parts of the spectrum, such as L-band microwave, but they’re not ideal.
That hasn’t stopped 02’s Oxford trial. It broadcast 16 channels of television to Nokia 7700 handsets loaned to 375 lucky 02 customers. The channel choice included standard terrrestrial channels plus CNN, Sky News, Sky Sports News, MTV and more. Give that platter, people mostly watched news (44 per cent), soaps (36 per cent) and music (32 per cent). If you want to know why that all adds up to more than 100, you’ll have to wait ‘til later today – we’re just getting O2 to clarify what question, exactly, was asked.
Despite the small screen size, the average viewing session was 23 minutes, with some users watching for 90 minutes or more (the 7700 delivers nearly 4 hours viewing on one charge).
Bizarrely, 36 per cent said they mostly used the mobile TV service at home – well ahead of the 23 per cent who used it in the workplace and 21 per cent who used it on the bus.
As 02 spokesman Mike Short coyly admitted, this was possibly due to people watching TV in 'unusual' places like the bathroom. Whatever pushes your buttons, we say.