LONDON: UK cellphone service Virgin Mobile is to axe its fledgling mobile TV service since customers are conspicuous by their absence. BT, its partner in the project, has also pulled the plug on its Movio business, intended to take mobile TV to other countries.

The VMTV service was launched amid much pomp and circumstance last fall but takeup was slow, partly because there was only one compatible handset available. It was also limited to five channels but did offer access to a host of digital radio stations.

To make matters terminal, the European Commission recently endorsed a competing technology branded DVB-H, underwritten by handset titan Nokia.

VMTV is likely to go off-air early next year, according to a BT spokesman: "While the feedback from users on the service has been complimentary, Movio sales have been slower than originally expected mainly due to a lack of compatible devices from the big brands.

"This in turn has been caused by the fragmented nature of the mobile TV market and hesitancy on the part of the main network operators as they seek to fill their own largely under-utilised 3G networks."

Avers Bruce Renny, marketing director at mobile TV group ROK: "Most mobile TV viewing is for just a few minutes. To be commercially successful, you have to provide a combination of live news, sports updates and video-on-demand made-for-mobile content which is instantly engaging. Simply broadcasting linear TV to mobiles is not the answer."

Virgin put a brave spin on the situation saying: "Virgin Mobile is proud to have led the way in offering the first broadcast mobile TV service in the UK, and we will continue to work to offer groundbreaking new services to consumers."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff