France buries its mobile TV project

There will not be a mobile TV service using the DVB-H standard in France, according to local reports. TDF now wants to use the capacity for a new B2M (Mobile Multimedia Broadcast) service.

Plans to launch a nationwide mobile TV service using DVB-H, called TMP (Télévision mobile personnelle) by the French, have been abandoned as no partners for the venture could be found.

The French government made the introduction of mobile TV possible with the media law of March 2007. Ever since, the media authority CSA tried to bring together interested parties to launch such a service.

Licences were issued to 16 broadcasters (TF1, France 2, France 3, Canal +, M6, Arte, Direct 8, W9, I-TV, BFM TV, NRJ 12, NT1, Virgin 17, Eurosport, Orange Sport and EuropaCorp TV) to go mobile.

But the authority could not find an operator willing to invest into the system. SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile refused to participate in the financing of a TMP service, citing that a lack of compatible handsets, the choice of the DVB-H standard and coexistence with existing offer (television over their own 3G and soon 4G networks) made it impossible to find a suitable business model.

In April 2010, an agreement between transmitter company TDF and VMO Virgin Mobile looked like breaking the deadlock. Then in January 2011, Virgin Mobile decided to stop the project.

This time, the 16 broadcasters holding a licence are expected to hand in their licence for the TMP service, which will be the final nail on the mobile TV coffin in France.

Meanwhile, TDF has now proposed to use the available frequency spectrum for a new project, B2M (Mobile Multimedia Broadcast). The government has awarded a grant to a consortium of eight partners (Airweb, Archos, Cognac-Jay Image, DiBcom, Expway, Immanens and Institut Telecom) led by TDF, to finance part (30%) of the project.

In a statement, TDF said “This major project aims to provide players in the digital economy and the media for effective and innovative solutions for broadcasting their content on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). It will address the growing public appetite for the consumption of digital content mobility.”

TDF expects a pilot to be available in the second half of 2012. During this phase, TDF will approach content providers, distributors and telecom operators to gauge interest.

The TDF group has brought together seven French industrial partners and the Institut Télécom.