S. Korea begins world’s first terrestrial mobile TV service

South Korea launched the world’s first terrestrial mobile TV service on Thursday, making a step forward toward a “ubiquitous era” that promises to enable people to watch TV anywhere and anytime.

South Korea’s four major local broadcasting companies — MBC, SBS, KBS and YTN — began transmitting the service, dubbed terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB), at 6 a.m. The smaller start-up U1 Media launched a test run of the service and Korea DMB will join the business in February next year.

DMB allows customers to view real-time digital television programs with CD-quality audio and video via cell phones, laptop computers and other handheld devices.

A ceremony was slated for later in the day to mark the launch of the service. The official launch was delayed for several months due to a lack of preparations. In May, the nation already commenced commercial service of satellite DMB.

Terrestrial DMB will initially be available only in the Seoul metropolitan area before it is expanded nationwide next year. The date for the nationwide service has yet to be finalized. The new service will be free of charge, which is different from satellite DMB that costs at least 13,000 won (US$12.60) a month.

South Korean handset makers have already rolled out diverse cell phones enabling users to view mobile TV programs. Two major conglomerates, Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc., are dominating the DMB handset market, which is estimated to grow to 1.4 trillion won in 2010, according to market experts.

Samsung Electronics unveiled nine terrestrial DMB handsets, including seven portable media players, on Tuesday.

South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute forecast that the subscription base for terrestrial DMB will grow an average of 190 percent every year to exceed 10 million in 2010.

DMB service, along with wireless broadband Internet, also called “WiBro,” has been at the forefront of the government’s efforts to usher in a ubiquitous world.

KT Corp., the nation’s largest fixed-line telecommunications company, launched a trial run of its wireless broadband Internet service last month on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum held in the southern city of Busan.


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