The European Commission has published guidelines to help accelerate the roll-out of mobile television, underlining its continuing commitment to the promotion of such services. So far the deployment of mobile television in Europe has met with mixed success, but cross border mobile television services using satellite and the DVB-SH standard could start as soon as next year.

“Successful commercial launches of mobile TV in Austria, Italy, Finland and the Netherlands have proved that efficient authorisation procedures are a key factor for the fast take-up of Mobile TV,” said Viviane Reding, the European Union telecoms and media commissioner.

“This is why we want to give member states guidance on how to allow industry to get these innovative services on track as quickly and smoothly as possible. We stand for a collaborative approach between all actors involved including broadcasters, mobile operators and platform operators, and we oppose heavy regulation or burdensome authorisation procedures for the introduction of Mobile TV in Europe.”

Regulatory approaches to the authorisation of mobile TV networks and services vary considerably across the European Union. The commission has identified the main principles which it suggests regulators and governments in the member states should follow when authorising operators to provide mobile television services.

In several member states, the general regime applying to broadcasting would implicitly or explicitly be extended to mobile television broadcasting. In some others, there are no specific rules, or the regulatory framework for this new platform is still being debated. So far only a few member states, such as Austria, Finland, France and Germany have adopted legislation for new mobile television services.

The guidelines say that a straightforward, transparent and non discriminatory procedure for awarding licences is the key to a successful approach avoiding delays. The quality of the service delivered to customers, including indoor coverage and transmission quality, should be part of the award conditions. The guidelines furthermore recommend that frequencies made available for mobile television should be withdrawn if the service has not started within a reasonable period of time.

They also advise regulators to keep the authorisation process open to all industry players and create conditions which encourage cooperation between telecoms operators providing the service and broadcasters providing the programming.

The commission favours DVB-H as a technical standard for mobile television services, but significantly the guidelines do not go so far as recommending a specific standard, while stressing the need for interoperability.

Although it is for the member states and the relevant regulators to decide upon the procedures for the granting of authorisations or licences, the European Commission guidelines offer a number of recommendations of best practice.

  • Any new authorisation regime for mobile TV under national law should aim at involving the different actors in the value chain whilst ensuring compliance with EC and national competition rules.
  • Authorisation procedures should be open to all market players in order to ensure a level playing field for different actors in the mobile TV value chain.
  • Public consultation of citizens and all interested parties should be organised systematically, in parallel with commercial trials.
  • Regular reporting by public authorities on market developments should take place, together with appropriate proposals to adapt existing rules.
  • The relationship between e-communications, spectrum and content rules should be clearly defined, in order to promote a clear and transparent authorisation regime.
  • The national regime for mobile TV should ensure a “one-stop-shop” approach or at least limit to the minimum the number of public players in decisions to grant mobile TV authorisations.
  • A clear schedule for the award procedure should be announced no later than the start of the commercial trials of mobile TV services.
  • Objective, transparent and non-discriminatory award criteria should be applied, in conformity with Community law. Requirements for quality of service, including indoor coverage, and optimal use of the spectrum should be part of the award conditions.
  • The possibility of withdrawing spectrum awarded for mobile TV that is not put to use within a reasonable time period should be included in the award conditions.
  • Rather than imposing “must-carry” rules on mobile TV, a discussion on “must offer” rules for mobile TV services should be organised in every Member State and at EU level.
  • Network infrastructure sharing for mobile TV services should be encouraged, to the extent permitted by competition rules.
  • Aspects related to interoperability and roaming for mobile TV should be given due consideration in light of the wireless nature of the services.

The full communication regarding the Legal Framework for Mobile TV Networks and Services is available from the Europa web site.

The European Commission is currently considering proposals from a number of operators that could enable pan-European mobile television services delivered by satellite from as early as next year and not later than 2012.

A full report on Satellite to Mobile: Television and radio broadcasting outlining the prospects for such services has been published by informitv.