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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Virgin To Offer Digital TV on Phones

Virgin Mobile has signed a deal with British Telecommunications company BT Group and Microsoft to offer five digital TV channels and 350 radio channels to its UK subscribers.

The deal was announced at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, on Tuesday where BT and Virgin have also unveiled a new phone, the Trilogy, to receive the new service.

Virgin Mobile, owned by British entrepreneur Richard Branson and which is considering a takeover by TV cable giant NTL, said it would offer the digital broadcast service on a limited exclusive basis to its customers later this year.

Virgin was set to sign up to the BT Movio broadcast digital TV and radio service for mobile phones, the groups said in a joint statement.

"Virgin Mobile customers will be the first people in Europe to watch real broadcast TV over their mobile phones," said Graeme Hutchinson, sales and marketing director of Virgin Mobile on Tuesday.

BT said that BT Movio was the first wholesale TV offering of its kind in Europe and would be available in the future to all mobile operators in Britain.

The companies did not disclose financial details of the agreement nor the cost to customers of the new package. Reports said it would cost Virgin Mobile subscribers about 8.0 pounds (11.5 euros, 14.0 dollars) per month to receive the service.

The Trilogy handset has meanwhile been made by Taiwan-based HTC and uses Microsoft software, including Windows Media Video and Windows Media Audio Pro.

The so-called Smartphone has a 2.2-inch (5.6-cm) screen, 1.3 mega-pixel camera and a battery, which when fully charged, allows users to watch TV for three hours or spend eight hours listening to the radio.

This uses the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) network, broadcasting signals that are picked up by a microchip in the handset.

It means that the service could be rolled out almost immediately, in contrast to one using a rival technology called DVB-H, which would require considerable investment.

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