After Italy and Vietnam, Albania readies to launch mobile television

TIRANA/BARCELONA (Reuters) – Albania, Europe’s second-poorest country, is set to roll out television broadcasts for mobile phones soon, becoming the third country to do so after Italy and Vietnam, DigitAlb Mobile said. «We have finished the testing and trials, built the network and expect the delivery of the handhelds before we go commercial. I believe this will happen in a matter of weeks,» said Henri Muca, technical director of DigitAlb Mobile, owned by Top Media group. Italy rolled out mobile TV broadcasts, using digital video broadcast handheld (DVB-H) technology, in time for the soccer World Cup last year, and Vietnam followed at the end of the year. Finland has opened a network but copyright rows have prevented television broadcasters from delivering pictures. «Albanians go after the best cars, the most expensive mobile phones and digital terrestrial television. I think they are ready for this,» Muca said. He said the service would be free throughout 2007, but customers would need to buy the handsets. Research firm Strategy Analytics expects 8 million DVB-H phones to be sold globally in 2007, led by Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. Vietnam offers mobile TV services in four cities, but so far the service has not been popular because the handsets cost around 12.8 million dong each ($800). «It has been a soft launch there,» said Harri Mannisto, director at Nokia’s multimedia unit. Muca believes Albania will have a better start. «Albanians also spend a lot of time watching television and the program of our DigitAlb platform is very good. So, we think this one will work,» he said.