TOKYO (AFP) -Japan has begun to watch digital television broadcasts on mobile telephones, in a highly anticipated service that could lead to a new genre of TV programs.
Japan is a frontrunner in the new technology, popularly known as “One Seg,” after “One Segment,” although South Korea has offered the service since the end of last year.
Handsets have been on the market in Japan for several weeks that are equipped with the service, which can also broadcast programs onto laptop computers, high-end video-game machines and other terminals.
The service will be free for now and programming will be the same as on home televisions as mobile operators examine whether One Seg will prove to be popular.
“In the short-term, digital terrestrial broadcasting on mobiles with the same programming as normal televisions will be of little interest for us,” Masao Nakamura, CEO of Japan’s top mobile operator NTT DoCoMo, said recently.
“But we are getting ready by preparing new specific content for the service that could come into use later when new channels are available,” he said.
Mobile operators have lined up agreements with television networks to develop the service.
NTT DoCoMo has tied up with Nippon Television and Fuji Television. DoCoMo’s main rival, KDDI, has forged a partnership with TV Asahi.
Subscribers will be able to watch up to nearly three hours of uninterrupted television with a normal cellphone battery, as opposed to about an hour for current analog broadcasts which require more power.
“On a technical level, the service functions well. The image is of good quality,” said Pierre Mustiere, a specialist at the consultancy JITEX, or the Japan International Technology and Strategy Experts.
But mobile operators risk losing out if subscribers turn to One Seg instead of pay-to-use Internet on their cellphones, unless the television service cashes in on interactive features such as links to online advertising.
“Nobody knows for now how to measure the value of interactive features,” Mustiere said.