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Virgin Mobile Promises First Real Cell Phone TV

Date: 11/2/2007 11:54:17 PM

Virgin Mobile has signed up for BT’s Movio broadcast digital TV and radio service for mobile phones, a deal that will apparently make it the first carrier in the world to offer IP packetbased TV on the tiny screen using standard Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) technology.

“Virgin Mobile customers will be the first people in Europe to watch real broadcast TV over their mobile phones. It’s not downloaded it’s not looped it’s real TV just like you get at home, and it’s real DAB digital radio crystal clear sound,” bragged Graeme Hutchinson, Virgin Mobile’s sales and marketing director.

The deal is also key for BT Movio, which at first will dish up five TV channels and 350 digital radio stations nationwide broadcasting twentyfour hours a day. BT Movio is one of the first wholesale TV offering of its kind in Europe. Eventually it will be available to all mobile operators in the UK, but for an undisclosed limited time Virgin gets exclusive rights. In part that’s because the Virgin service, which will go live later this year, will work at first on only a single handset called the Trilogy – touted as the world’s first DABIP capable handset and unveiled at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona this week.

The Trilogy was designed by BT, The Technology Partnership (TTP), a UK technology firm, and Taiwanese mobile handset manufacturer HTC. It runs on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system.

With the mobile TV market beginning to heat up in the U.K. Orange, Vodafone and 3 already stream TV channels over 3G mobile networks although that type of service tends to eat up bandwidth – Virgin is clearly trying to get an edge in the emerging market. Virgin claims that, in a trial with BT, if found people would actually watch TV on the tiny screen for an average of more than an hour per week and that most would pay up to $14 a month for the privilege.

Virgin, BT and Microsoft tout DABIP both because it supports IP and uses DAB infrastructure, which means a faster and cheaper time to market that for carriers using the rival DVBH system, which requires building new infrastructure. In addition to IPbased video and radio, the system supports other standard broadband applications – for instant Microsoft has versions of both its Internet Explorer browser and instant messaging software built into Windows Mobile.

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