Cell phone TV… FOR FREEEEEE?
This is my cell phone. It’s more than two years old. In fact it’s falling apart. There are scratches in it, there’s dirt caked up in the battery port. I want to get a new one soon. I’ve asked my company to get me one of those new innovative cell phones like LG’s MAXX or Samsung’s OZ Omnia. I don’t know if the company will be receptive and fork over the dough for frivolous gadgets, when all a cell phone really needs is calling and text messaging, but hey, it’s better than me paying for it myself, right?
Anyway, my phone is obsolete garbage. However, if I were to take this exact same cell phone in its present condition to the US, I’d have one of the best non-smart phones in the country. Of course the I-phone or the blackberry is better than my two year old cell phone, but my cell phone is better than even those in one way. I can watch live TV on my cell phone… for free… and it’s not in any way illegal, nor does it require that I hack into its OS or buy a slingbox. How is that possible you ask? My cell phone has this tiny side button labeled DMB. One touch and my phone turns into a tiny TV.
So what is DMB then? DMB stands for Digital Multimedia Broadcasting. It is a an advanced broadcasting technology developed by Korea for the purpose of sending TV, radio, or other data to handheld or otherwise portable devices (including cellular phones). It was developed during a national IT project sponsored by the Korean government. Mobile TV service began in Korea in 2005. DMB is now a standard feature on many Korean cellular phones, including ones you can get for free.
There are two types of DMB; one is S-DMB, in which the device uses satellite signals, the other is T-DMB which uses radio signals. Obviously the S-DMB devices are more expensive and work in a much larger range. My phone’s DMB feature has problems working outside of urban areas, or inside of buildings when I am far away from the window.
When do I use my phone’s DMB feature? Well, don’t tell my company, but I used it during work to watch some of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the 2009 World Series, and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. DMB is great, but I also have VOD TV service from my internet provider, so if there’s something I can wait to watch later, (such as an episode of a weekly TV show), then I just wait until I go home and watch it there. Watching sporting events that aren’t live just isn’t as fun, so that’s what I have been using DMB for mostly.
DMB technology can also be used by another device which has become popular in Korea, the car navigation system. When users aren’t using the navigation features, they can use the screen as a TV. This is great for parents who have to go on a long drive with noisy children, although personally, I’d be afraid that I’d watch TV while driving, which would be dangerous.
DMB on my phone is extremely clear, and there is only a short signal delay. When I compared it with the live TV I get in my apartment, my cellular phone was only a few seconds behind. I’d accept anything even 30 minutes behind, unless of course there was an imminent nuclear attack.
Anyway I am sure the cable or broadband TV lobbyists are trying their best to keep cable channels from being broadcast on DMB, but I think it would be a better medium to use even in our homes. We could do away with all the wires and cables necessary to bring cable signals to our TVs (At the moment, in my home, there is the cable modem, the router, and the TV setup box and all their associated cables and power cords, creating a huge ugly tangled mess, and wasting electricity even when they aren’t in use.) I imagine that once cable channels start to be broadcast on DMB, a DMB signal box that sends the DMB signal to your TV will become popular, if the streaming resolution can be improved upon to accommodate larger screen sizes. Then we will see TVs that already come with DMB capability. Thus DMB will not only be the standard for only portable devices but also stationary ones. But that’s only my prediction. Some people say that flow TV itself is a dying medium and the future is in TV on demand. But we’ll always need flow TV for sports and news.
In the USA, live TV seems to be a premium service that people have to pay for. I don’t really see the logic in that, other than that cell phone companies want to wring money from their customers as much as possible, keeping them in the dark, about the free features that people more advanced (in terms of cellular phone technology, that is) countries receive for free.
Other countries that use DMB in either a trial basis or as a standard service include Norway, Germany, France, China, Mexico, Ghana, The Netherlands, Indonesia, Italy, The Vatican, Canada, and Malaysia. As DMB’s popularity increases, it is very possible that it may one day become a regional or even global standard for mobile TV. Until then, I’ll be using it to watch sports when my boss isn’t looking.