Mobile TV, or DVB-H, is in the final testing phases before becoming commercially available in South Africa. Pay-TV provider Multichoice is currently leading the charge offering eight of its channels, free of charge, to users with compatible devices as part of a testing effort primarily within the Johannesburg and Pretoria area.
As a result, a number of mobile manufacturers are gearing up towards releasing DVB-H capable handsets locally. One of these is Nokia with its 5330 Mobile TV edition. Recently we at TechSmart had the opportunity to test drive both the device and the service in order to give our thoughts on the overall package.
The Nokia 5330 Mobile TV edition is not particularly awe inspiring as a stand alone device. Despite a May 2010 international release date it operates using a dated version of Nokia’s Symbian mobile platform. The 3G phone features just 70 MB of RAM and sports a 2.4" TFT display with a relatively poor resolution of 240 x 320 pixels with a slide out alpha-numeric keyboard.
Among its peripheral features are a 3.15 Megapixel camera with LED Flash and autofocus, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and a Stereo FM Radio.
By all accounts the 5330 is a veritable dinosaur in a world of capacitive touchreens, 720p HD video recording and accelerometers.
What sets it apart however is its DVB-H broadcast receiver, which allows it to pick up mobile television signals using this broadcast standard. Unfortunately this is not possible unless the wired headset, which acts as an aerial, is plugged in at all times. We found this to be a significant drawback since not only is it a hassle to have this plugged in the whole time to listen, but also since this makes it very difficult to share what ever may be happening on screen.
At present the Nokia 5330 is capable of displaying Multichoice Mobile TV test signals within the testing area (which is primarily confined to Johannesburg and Pretoria). After a quick set up process, during which the device scans for available channels and subscribes the user to the service, the phone is capable of picking up eight DSTv channels on MTN, namely Africa Magic, Supersport 1, Supersport 2, Supersport 3, Supersport 4, Cartoon Network, Channel O and CNN.
Nokia informed us that reception might not be up to scratch during the testing phase and it did seem like a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. In selected areas such at Hatfield and Randburg we found the signal to be particularly strong, with the 5330 broadcasting live football without too much trouble. In other areas such as Benoni, Lonehill and Edenvale however the signal was rendered almost unwatchable.
During tests done in the Garsfontein area reception was acceptable, but having said that, watching the World Cup was frustrating since disruption in reception seemed to have been directly related to how close the attacking team came to the goal area.
Multichoice has not commercially rolled out its mobile TV service due to a late application to ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) for licensing. As a result, the service is yet to be monetised or gather country wide support.
Among the four applicants for mobile television rights in South Africa (Mobile TV Consortium, Super5Media, Multichoice and Etv) only Etv’s application has been accepted by ICASA.
This may throw a spanner in the works with regards to Multichoice’s ability to nationally roll out a mobile television network. Nonetheless, devices such as Nokia’s 5330 are effective if the user is situated in a testing area.
Although mobile TV might be a novel feature on handsets we can’t help but feel as though Nokia simply rehashed a device from several years ago and slapped the mobile television tag on it. When we begin to see DVB-H receivers incorporated into Blackberry, Apple and Android devices we may sit up and take notice. And although this service is still in the testing phase, better reception is of vital importance before mobile TV can be taken seriously.