UK satellite television operator BSkyB plans to conduct the first European technical trials of the Qualcomm MediaFLO system for delivering mobile video services.

The technical trial will include 10 channels of Sky programming and will be restricted to a small number of non-commercial handsets provided by Qualcomm.

Sky currently provides video services to mobile phones, but these are based on unicast streams that are sent separately to each receiver and are limited by the capacity of the cellular network.

The proprietary Qualcomm MediaFLO system provides multicast delivery of multimedia services to mobile devices, enabling more services to be received by any number of users.

“BSkyB is committed to offering customers flexible ways to enjoy our services,” said Stephen Nuttall, the group director of business development at BSkyB. “We have led the way in the delivery of mobile TV over existing platforms and we look forward to working with Qualcomm in this technical trial to evaluate the potential of MediaFLO.”

“The openness of the MediaFLO system, as well as its significant advantages with respect to coverage, power consumption and cost, set MediaFLO apart from other competing technologies,” said Peggy Johnson of Qualcomm.

Qualcomm says that MediaFLO can support up to 30 streaming quarter screen 320×240 pixel video streams within the capacity of a single 8 MHz channel, with an average channel changing time of less than two seconds. In addition, the system can also deliver short format audio and video clips and other data.

In the United States, Qualcomm subsidiary MediaFLO USA is deploying a national network in conjunction with Verizon Wireless that will use 700 MHz spectrum previously allocated to television broadcasts.

Qualcomm has also formed a joint venture with KDDI to explore the deployment of MediaFLO services in Japan.

The proprietary Qualcomm MediaFLO system is competing with the DVB-H standard for mobile broadcasting, which is based on the DVB-T system used for digital terrestrial television in the UK and other countries.

The DVB-H system has already been successfully trialled in the UK and other European countries and has substantial industry backing.

The commercial deployment of mobile television and video services is currently limited by the availability of suitable transmission spectrum. In the UK this is likely to be made available by auction.

Meanwhile, Virgin Mobile, now linked with cable company NTL, is planning to launch a mobile video service on the BT Movio platform, based on DAB digital audio broadcasting technology using currently available capacity.

If BSkyB were to acquire suitable spectrum for a MediaFLO platform in the UK it could create a significant competitor to competing standards.