In a relatively short period of time the cellphone has evolved from being just a phone to offering functions from personalised ringtones to music downloads. Now, cellphone TV is finally hitting South Africa, with both Vodacom and MTN running tests. As soon as Multichoice, the Naspers unit that runs DStv, is granted a mobile broadcasting licence by South Africa's communications regulator, South Africa will join Italy and Vietname - the only 2 countries in in which mobile TV has launched commercially so far.
On 1 December 2005 Vodacom launched the first Mobile TV service in South Africa on Vodafone live!, running DVB-H tests with MultiChoice, which is accessible by subscribers with Vodafone live! 3G cellphones.
Channels available to Vodacom customers include E! Entertainment, Fashion TV, Chilli TV and BBC.
You select the Menu tab from the Vodafone live! menu, select TV & Video and choose the channel you want to watch. Programmes are streamed to your cellphone and there's no downloading involved, so your phone memory isn't clogged up. If you receive a call, the programme will be interrupted automatically, so you won't miss a call while watching Mobile TV.
Mobile TV is available to both Vodacom Prepaid and Contract customers. You'll need to be in an area with 3G coverage.
In October 2006, MTN introduced the Samsung P910 handset, South Africa's first commercially available 3G digital video broadcasting (DVB-H) capable cellphone; as part of the DVB-H testing that MTN and MultiChoice are running with 1,000 subscribers in Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg, until MultiChoice receives its subscription broadcasting licence.
MTN's service is available to all MTN customers (at the usual data usage charges, and potentially an extra charge from 1 November 2006).
Internationally, there are a number of opportunities to carrry out entertainment on your phone with the latest mobile video trend. Mobile video is getting better with more mobile TV stations available.
MultiChoice is amongst 18 different consortiums (including African Spirit Trading 330, Black Earth Communications, Deukom Television, eTV, Goal Technology Solutions, Worldspace, Telkom Media, MAX TV, On Digital Media, SABC, Walking on Water Television, Quantic TV Network, E-SAT, Satellite Media TV, Multichannel Television, Kheta Media, Q Digital Cable Vision, MiDigital) that have applied for a subscription broadcasting licence.
The definition of a TV set ( in television licence legislation) is: "Any device designed or adapted to be capable of receiving a broadcasting television signal." The SABC have said that a separate licence would not be required for DVB-H or mobile television handsets if a person already had a licence for a television set.
Icasa ( Independent Communications Authority of SA) will conduct research in 2007 to determine whether cellphone users will require individual licences to have access to mobile television.
Rotating colour screen
The Samsung P910 is DVB-H capable. The handset has a a rotating colour screen (an LCD 262144 TFT Colour QVGA screen and double adjusting hinge that rotates into landscape mode).
The handset claims to offer the functionality of any other 3G handset but with the use of USIM featuring encryption technology that ensures the highest level of security for users.
The Samsung P910 may allow access to MTN's DStv-Mobile DVB-H trial, subject to the terms and conditions as prescribed by DStv-Mobile. For a trial period during the month of October 2006, MTN is offering 2 3G streaming television channels, CNN and Fashion TV. The DVB-H trial is only applicable to users with a Samsung P910 and upgraded Samsung cellphone when used in conjunction with an MTN DVB-H capable USIM, within the Multichoice and M-Net DVB-H Trial Network coverage areas – restricted to select suburbs in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Soweto, and Pretoria.
DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast – Handheld) is a mobile broadcast technology allowing for the digital terrestrial broadcast of live television channels to a mobile phone. While 3G is a one-to-one transmission and thus is subject to bandwidth and frequency limitations DVB-H is one-to-many true broadcast and does not suffer such limitations. The advantage of offering both technologies on one handset is that 3G can accommodate a ‘return path’, allowing a user to request content on demand, and download it for use almost immediately or at a later stage.
Mobile TV signals will be handled by special chips on a mobile phone that sit alongside the chips that process the mobile phone's calls, music and streaming video clips. The difference between TV and streaming video services is that the TV signals are broadcast to all users at the same time, while streaming video is delivered on demand by mobile operators. Mobile TV images are expected to be of higher quality than mobile video streams.
Multichoice and MNET received a test license from the South African communications industry regulator (ICASA -Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) to conduct a DVB-H trial. The purpose of the trial is to refine the technical transmission of DVB-H. The trial started in November 2005 and is building unique South African mobile broadcast expertise.
We welcome input to improve our coverage of Cellphone TV in South Africa