Digital TV goes walkabout

As fixed digital TV sales near a million in Australia, a whole new market is being trialled in central Sydney with a limited release of handheld digital TVs and a cut-down mobile digital signal.

Code-named 'movemedia', the trial is designed to test the technical requirements and commercial viability of Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld (DVB-H). Macquarie Bank subsidiary, Broadcast Australia, has combined with Telstra to beam more than 15 channels of digital programming to mobile TV handsets from the project's Gore Hill base.

Based on the terrestrial digital DVB-T standard, DVB-H uses advanced video and audio coding and compression technologies such as MPEG-4, Windows Media 9 and AAC to deliver quality broadcasts to handheld devices.

With about 40 handsets already distributed among Telstra employees, plans are afoot to expand the rollout to 1000 Telstra customers who live or commute in the broadcast area.

"We are interested in finding out what sorts of multimedia and programming options will be successful, before we settle on a payment model," explained Telstra media advisor, Warwick Ponder. "The project is being watched closely not only by other telcos, but also by the industry regulator, so we can settle on revenue models and standards before a full commercial rollout goes ahead."

Using a backbone provided by Harris Broadcast Systems, the broadcast will feature 15 channels in the initial phase - with plans to grow this base to 30 channels by the end of the trial period. At this stage, content providers include Foxtel, ABC, SBS, Nine Network Australia, Turner (CNNi, Boomerang), and Sky Channel (Racing).

Telstra Research Laboratories' will also be developing and testing interactive applications like eCommerce, on-demand content to deliver in conjunction with the broadcast.

Claiming the project as a world first, Telstra's Ponder said results of the project would be made available as they come to hand, with a full rollout planned once technical, regulatory and commercial issues are resolved through the trial.

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