After a trail last year, Virgin Mobile is set to start selling mobile phones that can receive DAB radio, and a four-channel low-quality television service.
As DAB (digital audio broadcasting) provides data at only 1,168kps, there is only room for BBC ONE, ITV-1, E4 and a special version of Channel 4. Coverage of DAB in the UK is very good, and in many areas provides a stable, uninterrupted signal. DAB does have two drawbacks: reception seems to require a lot of battery power and reception inside moving vehicles, especially trains, can be impossible.
The BBC channel is being provided for free for the first year. Channel 4 will be a restricted service, presumably similar to the online offering for the same right reasons, and ITV-1 will be shown without spot advertising.
For this service, which starts on October 9, you will need a BT Lobster 700 'telly-phone' (£199 with Virgin's £25 per month contract) and a monthly charge of £5 (free for the first three months).
This compares with the offerings from the 3 company, which allows you to download clips of programmes from ITV1. These services are not live TV, and are restricted to about 64kbps.
If and when DVB-H services are started, these can provide six times the bandwidth - 24 TV channels - to mobile phones. One possibility for a mobile-Freeview will be to use TV frequencyC36 which is currently used for radar development.
DVB-H, a version of the DVB broadcasting standard used for digital TV around the world, is specifically designed for mobile reception and uses considerable less battery power. Philips is also developing a more sensitive DVB-T chipset that may make reception of the standard Freeview service possible. It is currently impossible because the GSM mobile phone signals cause severe Freeview interference.
We will have to see if the DAB/Virgin TV service proves popular!