O2, Orange, and Vodafone to jointly launch pilot for mobile TV

Three of the world’s largest mobile operators, O2, Orange, and Vodafone, have announced an initiative to jointly pilot a new mobile broadcast system capable of delivering data intensive services such as mobile TV in a more efficient way.

The multi-operator pilot, which will run for three months commencing in October 2010 in central London and Slough, will assess how mobile broadcast services can be deployed using shared network infrastructure.

Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB) is a standardised 3GPP technology recently endorsed by the GSM Association. As well as offering broadcast services to customers, it can seamlessly link with traditional unicast or on-demand services delivered over 3G.

The mobile operators are exploring using the IMB wireless technology within a little used tranche of 3G spectrum called Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum. This spectrum already forms part of the 3G licences held by many European mobile operators, but has remained largely unused because of a lack of appropriate technology. Currently, 3G TDD spectrum is available to over 150 operators across 60 countries covering more than half a billion subscribers.

The pilot will demonstrate the capabilities of IMB in delivering both live streaming video and offloading traffic from existing 3G networks by broadcasting and storing popular content on mobile devices. This technology has the potential to deliver a compelling user experience at lower cost than conventional solutions.

“With the strong growth of data traffic on our 3G networks and the mobile industry’s recent support of this high performance broadcast technology, the time is right to move forward with an IMB initiative,” said Luke Ibbetson, Head of Technology R&D at Vodafone Group. “By joining our peers in this UK Pilot, we expect to be able to explore the potential of delivering broadcast services across available 3G spectrum.”

“Already a leading provider of mobile TV in Europe, our experience shows consumers will take advantage of linear broadcast services if the network experience is consistently good,” said Thierry Bonhomme, EVP in charge of Networks, Carriers and R&D at Orange. “Network capability is key for mobile TV roll-out and IMB will enable more operators to maximize the benefits they get from 3G investments with high quality TV service deployments on an efficient, pragmatic and scalable solution that works from country to country.”

“We believe the road is clear for IMB now that it has been endorsed by the GSMA and supported by the wider mobile ecosystem,” said Gavin Franks, Head of New Business Development at O2. “Based on the results of the pilot, we anticipate being able to offer our consumers through our networks a range of innovative new broadcast services such as mobile TV and intelligent broadcasting that will lead to an enhanced user experience.”

“We are pleased to see the UK’s major operators working together to evaluate and better understand how to best leverage this new standardised technology,” said Dan Warren, Director of Technology at the GSMA. “The key learnings from this UK Pilot have the potential to benefit and create new opportunities for the mobile community worldwide.”

IPWireless and Ericsson, two of the pioneers behind the development of IMB technology within 3GPP, have partnered to deliver the end-to-end technology solution for the UK pilot. IPWireless will supply the core 3GPP broadcast technology that will explore the performance of the TDD spectrum for mobile broadcast services. Ericsson, as the prime integrator, will provide integration services and a media platform. Streamezzo, recently acquired by AMDOCS, is a leading software publisher of open mobile development platforms and will provide the rich media user interface for the pilot.

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