French mobile operators Orange and Bouygues Telecom along with the Spanish branch of The Carphone Warehouse have started to retail DVB-T handsets provided by Korean handset manufacturer LG. The embedded DVB-T tuner allows the phone to receive free-to-air digital TV broadcasts. There are two models available:
- The LG KB770 is a 3.5G touchscreen phone which initially launched in Germany in November 2008. The phone is retailed in France by Orange for 119 Euro on a 12 month contract and by Bouygues Telecom for 29 Euro on a 24 month contract. It is also available without a contract for between 329 and 399 Euro.
- The LG HB620T is an older version of the phone which launched in Germany in May 2008 just before the European Football Championships. The Spanish branch of The Carphone Warehouse, "The Phone House", currently offers the LG handset for 171 Euro without a SIM card or for free on a mobile phone contract with Orange Spain.
Already popular in Germany, those DVB-T devices are set to drive mobile TV adoption in France and Spain. The current adoption rate for mobile TV over 3G networks in France is the highest in Europe, a clear indication of the high demand for mobile TV services in this country. The LG KB770 already benefits from strong operator support with the device currently being advertised on Bouygues Telecom's home page, something which will certainly help drive device sales.
The main advantages of DVB-T for mobile TV are free access, substantial content line-up (i.e. more than 10 TV channels) and pan-European coverage. However, because the service is free neither mobile operators nor broadcasters are set to generate direct revenues from it in the short/medium term. If other handset manufacturers follow suit, Europe could well become like Japan, which has shipped over 40m mobile TV phones since April 2006. With such a large addressable market, mobile advertising, interactivity and premium content could become a serious revenue generator for mobile operators and broadcasters.
The recent fall into recession has much undermined the business case for new mobile TV platforms in Europe. The launch of DVB-T handsets combined with the current financial pressure is a serious blow for the DVB-H camp in Europe. Screen Digest predicts that DVB-T will overtake DVB-H as the leading mobile TV technology in Europe by mid 2009.