South Africa: Mobile TV Gets Licence to Test Technology

Digital Content

Black-owned consortium Mobile TV, which took the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to court over the mobile TV licence selection process, has been awarded a trial broadcast service licence in Gauteng to test a different technology to that being used by mobile TV licence holders MultiChoice and

On September 16, Icasa awarded Mobile TV a year's trial licence that gives it the right to test the Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) technology, using Sentech as its distributor. The test area stretches from Johannesburg to Garankuwa, Krugersdrop, in the west and Kempton Park in the east, with the transmitter situated in Pretoria.

MultiChoice uses Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld technology.

Mobile TV, which was disqualified by Icasa from applying for the first mobile TV licence because it was not an existing licence holder, put up a spirited fight during the process.

The consortium took Icasa to court unsuccessfully to stop the licence process, arguing that three weeks was not sufficient time to lodge an application. It then threatened to lodge a complaint with the public protector if Icasa allowed MultiChoice's late entry - which Icasa rejected - leaving the only applicant in the first round.

Mothobi Mutloatse, founder of Mobile TV consortium member company Narevest, said last week the consortium hoped to have the trial up and running by the end of next month, and was considering holding competitions to select about 1000 participants for the study.

"It's a technical trial, so participants will fill in questionnaires on reception, not content," he said.

"Icasa will evaluate the data and we will then apply for a permanent licence. We are hoping by then Icasa will have the National Frequency Plan."

The new mobile TV company will be called TV4U and will carry international, local and community news and entertainment, as well as interactive applications such as music downloads and games.

Mr Mutloatse said DMB technology was selected because it allowed for mobile TV and radio, as well as interactive services, to be broadcast simultaneously on the same multiplex, and offered good reception and digital sound "of CD quality".

A private trial was carried out on DMB by the consortium, and results submitted to Icasa.

South Korea, which uses DMB, became the first country to launch a consumer mobile TV service, in December 2005. Germany then launched DMB mobile TV services to coincide with the 2006 Fifa World Cup and it is now available in 14 European countries. Nine more countries have carried out trials.