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Japan unrolls mobile digital TV

Posted: 01 May 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DTV? One-Seg? mobile phone? car navigation? XX?

A new terrestrial DTV broadcasting service for mobile equipment called "One-Seg" was rolled out in Japan April 1. The service is expected to spawn One-Seg-capable devices for mobile phones and car navigation systems, marking the first practical merger of communications and broadcasting. But while some broadcasters are developing partnerships that will help them exploit the new market, others are searching for ways to make it part of a profitable business model.

Currently, 28.4 million households in Japan own terrestrial DTVs, which translate to 60 percent of the population. That number is expected to climb to 38.5 million households by the end of this year, when coverage reaches 82 percent. Theoretically, the One-Seg service can be deployed in the same areas and be aired almost automatically, once it is connected to DTVs.

Analog TV broadcasting service is slated to be terminated in Japan on July 24, 2011.

Wireless players in Japan are looking for ways to establish a profitable business model using One-Seg, but it won't be easy. At present, DTV programs are simulcast along with analog TV programs. Consequently, people can enjoy watching TV programs on their mobile phones anywhere, for free.

And while NHK, Japan's only public broadcaster, includes mobile reception in its contract for homes, there is little that broadcasters and receiver manufacturers can do to offer attractive services that are different from present analog TV programs. Mobile-phone operators, in particular, do not expect to see an increase of traffic on their networks.

Meanwhile, NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile-communications company, has been enthusiastic about developing new services with TV broadcasters.

Docomo acquired a 2.6 percent stake in major private TV broadcaster Fuji Television last January. With the strengthened partnership, the two companies intend to develop services based on the convergence of communications and broadcasting.

Docomo established with Nippon Television Network Corp., another major private-TV station, a joint venture company named D.N. Dream Partners LLC last month. The companies will develop and produce content for the One-Seg broadcasting service, pooling their know-how in mobile phones, the i-mode data service and TV broadcasting.

KDDI Corp. is readying two models of One-Seg-capable mobile phones, supplied by Sanyo and Hitachi. Docomo is offering one Matsushita model. The models weigh about 150g and are capable of showing TV programs lasting from 2hrs to a maximum of about 3hrs and 45mins.

On the automotive front, the One-Seg broadcasting service features clear reception in cars, creating the potential for a large market. In preparation for such a market, Sanyo announced recently a new car navigation system with a built-in One-Seg tuner. Other car navigation system majors, such as Matsushita and Pioneer, also plan to develop systems that will be ready for One-Seg.

- Yoshiko Hara
EE Times

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