Results from the pilot of BT Movio, formerly known as BT Livetime, have shown apparent consumer demand for a broadcast digital television and radio service for mobile phones, due to become commercially available in the UK later this year.
The pilot revealed that two thirds of customers would be prepared to pay up to £8 a month for the new service, rather less than operators might have hoped. BT is preparing to provide a wholesale service available to other operators, followed by the launch of a consumer service.
BT Movio is broadcast using the Digital Audio Broadcasting or DAB network, originally designed for digital radio. As a broadcast service it can scale to an arbitrary number of users, unlike streaming services currently delivered over 3G networks.
“As the popularity of mobile TV grows, the UK will need a broadcast delivery mechanism,” said Emma Lloyd, managing director of BT Movio. “Delivered via the UK’s only national commercial DAB network — available right now — BT Movio will be the first ‘one to many’ broadcast service to deliver live TV to UK mobile users.”
For the last four months, BT and Virgin Mobile have been broadcasting digital radio and television to 1000 users in the London area with specially designed DAP-IP enabled smartphones supplied by Taiwanese manufacturer HTC.
Over three quarters of the pilot users tuned into digital television and radio on their mobile at least once a week. Around the same number, 73%, said they would be prepared to pay for the service on their current network if it were priced competitively, while 38% would be prepared to switch networks to receive radio and television.
Ironically, digital radio proved more popular than television, with pilot users tuning in for over an hour and a half a week, compared to just over an hour of television.
It is perhaps surprising that consumers appear to be prepared to pay a monthly subscription for the privilege. Many mobile handsets already come equipped with analogue FM radio receivers. While mobile handset manufacturers may benefit from new digital broadcast services, whether consumers can actually be persuaded to pay for them remains to be seen.
BT Movio uses currently available digital spectrum owned by national digital radio broadcaster Digital One.
The results of a trial in Oxford, using the DVB-H standard, based on digital television technology, are also due to be announced. Broadcast spectrum for such a service will only be available following digital switchover, which takes place in the UK between 2008 and 2012.
In the US, Crown Castle is already planning to provide DVB-H televison in some markets, while Qualcomm is expected to launch a service using its proprietary MediaFLO system.