BRUSSELS: The European Commission has signalled its support for a mobile TV industry standard, despite the contention by some member states that the decision should rest with the market.
Support for the DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld) system will open the way for a rapid rollout of mobile TV across the continent.
In addition, declares telecommunications commissioner Viviane Reding, a single standard should also lead to lower prices for broadcasts to mobile phones and for equipment.
DVB-H, developed by European research institutes, is supported by Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2, Nokia, Siemens, Sony Ericsson, Philips and Motorola.
Its main competitor systems are DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) developed and widely used in South Korea, and MediaFLO, developed by US company Qualcomm.
Reding is pressing for DVB-H to be a "non-mandatory standard", among other options.
But dissenting EU ministers, among them the UK's Stephen Timms, argue it is too soon to back one technology.
He says: "It should be for industry and consumers to decide on solutions which optimally fulfill their needs."
The EC believes 2008 will be a key moment in the growth of mobile TV with many millions of people expected to use their phones to watch the Beijing Olympics and the Euro soccer championships.
The Commission estimates the market could be worth up to €20 billion euros ($29.5bn; £14bn) in 2011 and reach 500 million customers worldwide.
Currently mobile TV is available only in Finland and Italy, although it is on trial in many other member nations. In South Korea and Japan there are 20 million mobile TV customers, more than 30 times the number of users in the EU.
The commission will now prepare guidelines for authorisation procedures when a special committee of national experts meets to fine-tune the decision, which all 27 member states have to support.
Data sourced from International Herald-Tribune; additional content by WARC staff