NTT DoCoMo strongly backs smartphone TV service, aims for global adoption

Japan's biggest carrier will invest $390 million and offer compatible handsets for "nottv," which aims for an April launch.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile carrier, said Tuesday it will strongly back a new TV service for smartphones to launch next year, and will work to promote the technology internationally.

Nottv is a new broadcaster that will use bandwidth that became available since Japan ended analog TV broadcasts earlier this year. The company will go on air from April, with its smartphone-dedicated shows displayed inside of mobile applications that allow viewers to interact online.

DoCoMo, which holds 48 percent of all mobile contracts in the country, will invest about ¥30 billion (US$390 million) to take a majority stake in the new broadcaster's parent company, mmbi, in which Japan's traditional broadcasters, its largest ad agency, and several electronics manufacturers also have a share. DoCoMo said that within two years the majority of new phones it offers will be compatible, and it will heavily promote the service among its subscribers and abroad.

"This broadcast technology is already being used in countries outside of Japan," said NTT DoCoMo CEO Ryuji Yamada. "The service is fully suited for global use."

The new broadcasts will be based on a derivative of ISDB (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting), a Japanese standard that has also been adopted in Brazil and other South American countries.

Although Japan's telecoms have repeatedly failed to export impressive local technologies in the past, they are keen to do so as the local market is largely saturated and in the midst of a drawn-out price war to draw and keep subscribers.

Japan already has a television standard for mobile phones called one-seg, but it mainly offers a low-quality mirror of what is being broadcast to standard TVs. The new service will offer five times the quality and twice the frame rate of one-seg, and will also be able to deliver digital content such as games and newspapers over the airwaves to a mass audience without a drop in quality.

Demonstrations have displayed shows and other content that are automatically downloaded and saved locally on phones for viewing on demand. The service's backers are also promoting the service as an emergency broadcast system that can still be used when networks go down after strong earthquakes and other disasters.

It will cost ¥480 (US$6) per month when it launches in April.

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