Mobile digital TV ... tomorrow
Despite the popularity of portable televisions, and the ubiquity of mobile phones, a low-cost mobile digital television has taken a relatively long time to develop.
Trails are underway that add television reception to mobile phones, and pocket-sized receivers are being developed.
One system, with the catchy name DVB-H (digital video broadcasting ? handheld) requires a national network of new transmissions to work. It provides for around fifty low-resolution widescreen channels that can be free-to-air or require subscription. The engineers designed the transmissions format to be picked up by a battery-powered handheld device with no rooftop aerial.
The device itself is designed to conserve battery power, and can invisibly switch between transmitters as the device is transported.
Combing a TV with a mobile phone is one option; another would be, in the ipod mode, a mobile portable video recorder. A portable device that could record your favourite TV shows for viewing at any time, a pocket Sky+, t-podcasting even, would be an obvious winner.
Another trial is using the existing DAB (digital audio broadcasting, aka digital radio) network. This provides a few low-resolution channels. With DAB coverage worse than that of Freeview, and the small number of channels, it is hard to see this as anything more than a technology trail.
Mobile Freeview reception is technically possible, but often only whilst connected to a external aerial.
A combined Freeview/DVB-H receiver could provide an elegant solution for people in poor reception areas. Thus implementation of DVB-H could also extend the area covered by digital television transmissions after analogue shutdown to include (at lower resolution) to those who would not otherwise have a signal. This also includes those in nominal good reception areas where the infrastructure or environment prevents it. It would provide a power-effective upgrade for all those portable TVs with coat hangers for aerials that are never going to receive Freeview.
The implementation of a national network will require the vision and organization energies that set up Freeview. If mobile phone devices become readily available that can display TV and in the UK they don?t, there is bound to be a pressure for services. The BBC could rapidly implement a DVB-H national network by using some of the space on their under-used Freeview B-multiplex.
Without a hard-drive recorder, it would seem that dip-in channels, such as news and music channels would be the most valued.
A portable mobile digital video recorder combined with a range of free services (like Freeview) would be invaluable. Subscription material such as films and sport at lower resolution could provide pay-per-view and subscription income without distributing higher definition copies around. I can?t see people ever watching adverts on this device.