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It appears that for-pay mobile TV services have been taking a beating outside of the U.S. this week. Mobile 3.0, the company that won Germany's DVB-H(INFO) mobile TV license in Germany, and Toshiba's Mobile Broadcasting Corporation in Japan have both been put under severe pressure by free terrestrial (conventional) television standards.
Today Toshiba announced that it was shutting down Mobile Broadcasting Corp. at the end of March 2009, stating that the company has not gained enough subscribers due in large part to the popularity of the free TV broadcasting that many of Japan's phones are now capable of receiving (and even recording).
The situation in Germany is somewhat different, but it appears that the end result will be the same. After the German carriers lost the DVB-H licensing auction to Mobile 3.0, the carriers decided to instead support the DVB-T(INFO) broadcast standard in their handsets, with Vodafone specifically saying that it would not sell DVB-H compatible handsets for fear that its customers would spend less on its own services if they signed up for Mobile 3.0's subscription based DVB-H system. The end result is that there are very few DVB-H compatible handsets in Germany, and, as MoCoNews points out, Mobile 3.0's backers are reportedly about to pull the plug.
The situation is different on many levels in the U.S. The nation's two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, both use Qualcomm's MediaFLO(INFO) mobile TV standard on their TV compatible cell phones. While different technically, MediaFLO and DVB-H work on the same basic premiss of broadcasting a separate, mobile optimized digital TV signal over the air that compatible devices can receive. Since AT&T and Verizon more or less control the handset models that are available to its customers, much as is the case with German carriers, the two have been able to steer subscribers into using the MediaFLO system while avoiding competition from devices that could otherwise pick up free broadcast TV signals. Similarly, Sprint offers a streaming TV service on most of its handsets. T-Mobile currently offers no integrated TV support to its customers.