Back in March this year European Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding threatened to mandate DVB-H as the European mobile TV technology unless industry agreed its own single standard by the summer. Summer has arrived and the Commission isn’t mandating DVB-H, it’s saying it might do so next year, depending on market conditions. “This is the policy equivalent of kicking this initiative into the long grass,” said Martin Sims, managing editor of PolicyTracker, the spectrum policy newsletter.
The Commission had said that by the summer it would put together detailed
proposals for mandating DVB-H, in fact these haven’t been forthcoming. In the face of almost universal industry opposition and little support from
regulators or member states, the Commission has concluded that mandating
DVB-H isn’t achievable in the immediate future. “The Commission usually calls for technology neutrality and this change of tack provoked opposition on a scale we have never seen before,” said Martin Sims. “Even the new Portuguese Presidency has indicated that they oppose it.”
Martin Sims also says that the Commission’s talk of including DVB-H “in the EU’s official list of standards” can be misleading. “Most European standards, including DVB-H are voluntary. Manufacturers can choose whichever one suits them best. The Commission’s press statement doesn’t mention that one of DVB-H’s biggest competitors, DMB, is also a European standard.” The European Telecoms Standardisation Institute is currently working on a standard for the other main DVB-H competitor, MediaFLO.
Industry attitudes have changed considerably since the 1987 European Directive which mandated GSM, says Martin Sims. “Many in the sector would agree that a compulsory technology could improve the prospects for mobile TV in Europe, but on the other hand no-one wants their own technology of choice consigned to the wilderness on the whim of a regulator. Industry has become wedded to the idea of technology neutrality as a way of avoiding that problem. Unlike 1987 there are several perfectly serviceable technology options available and letting industry make its own choice seems the only workable alternative.”