True mobile TV arrives in South Africa

Technology & Convergence

The DVB-H mobile TV technology is not to be confused with the recently launched DStv Mobile streaming service that utilises the mobile operators' 3G networks.
Only two months after being awarded their mobile TV licences, MultiChoice and etv have teamed up to unveil the country's first digital terrestrial mobile broadcast offerings.

MultiChoice yesterday unveiled a subscription-based bouquet, DStv Mobile, offering eight channels, while free-to-air broadcaster etv offers two channels through e.Mobile TV.

While DStv plans to expand the line-up of available programmes over time, channels available now include four Supersport channels, Trace, Africa Magic, and Cartoon Network.

Etv has made its eNews channel and Channel O available through its mobile offering, while the broadcaster's etv channel will be added in due course.

Users can access DStv mobile through cellphones that are enabled for the DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld) broadcasting format, or through a mobile decoder for WiFi-enabled devices, called the Drifta.

The DVB-H-enabled cellphones available in SA include the Nokia 5330, Nokia N96 and ZTE F900. DStv says it will extend access from Nokia, Samsung, ZTE, iPhone, iPad, and iPod devices and PCs, to BlackBerry, Android, and series 60 Nokia handsets and Mac computers next year.

The service will cost subscribers R36 per month from 1 April 2011, while the Drifta will be available for R599 from major retailers from 1 December.

Coverage is limited and currently only available in certain areas: the major centres of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Soweto, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Polokwane, Mbombela, Rustenburg, Bloemfontein and Durban.

These offerings are not to be confused with current mobile TV services available in the market, which run on 3G network technology.

Rather, the DVB-H technology allows users unlimited access to the channels available on the service, without the payment of data charges.

This technology became available to the two broadcasters when MultiChoice and etv where awarded licences to use the spectrum required for this type of broadcasting.

This followed a controversial invitation to apply from the Independent Communications Authority of SA resulted in the authority granting radio spectrum frequency spectrum licences for mobile TV service in multiplex 1 to etv, with capacity of 40%, and MultiChoice for capacity of 60%.

Prior to this, the only option available to broadcasters was to team up with mobile operators to offer a 3G version of mobile TV. These offerings were criticised for poor quality and high cost.