Digital Cellphone TV Broadcasts to Begin April 1

Japan is gearing up for the roll out of digital cellphone TV. A consortium of major public and private broadcasters announced Tuesday that service over much of the country would start April 1 and would be called “One Seg(u).”

The Tuesday event, which included presentations delivered by female anchors from each of the major broadcasters, marked the start of a publicity campaign introducing “One Seg(u).”

“One Seg(u)” gets its name from the fact that one of the 13 segments of the 6 Megahertz of spectrum allocated to terrestrial broadcasting of digital television in Japan will be directed to cellular telephones.

The service will be offered without charge to anyone with a special tuner-equipped cell phone, personal computer or car navigation system. Programming will match what is offered on the other 12 digital TV stations.

Along with the announcement, NTT Docomo and KDDI also demonstrated prototypes of handsets that can be used to receive One Seg(u) Tuesday. Docomo’s P901iTV, for instance, will come with a rectangular screen that can be turned horizontally so that one can view the screen as a normal TV screen, while allowing simultaneous access to the keyboard to change channels or use the Internet. A special feature of One Seg(u) is that it allows users to view receive video and audio in the upper part of the screen, while receiving data in the lower half.

As digital TV does not consume much power, viewers can use the Docomo handset for two and a half hours continuously. However, those who wish to view analog stations instead will only be able to watch for an hour and a half.

According to a report in Forbes, the Docomo model is expected to cost some 10,000 yen ($89) more than a standard cell phone.

Terrestrial broadcasting of digital TV began in December 2003. By the end of this year, 90 percent of the Tokyo metropolitan region – which is home to nearly a third of Japan’s total population – will be able to receive the broadcasts, according to TV Asahi’s Tamayo Marukawa, as quoted in the trade publication Keitai Watch.

About David Jacobson

David Jacobson is a journalist with experience on both sides of the Pacific. He graduated from Yale University with a degree in East Asian Studies and attended the Inter-University Center of the Japanese Language in Tokyo and Hitotsubashi University, the latter on a Mombu(kagaku)sho Scholarship. He has both covered and worked for the Japanese media, as a reporter, writer or producer for the Nikkei, NHK, and the Associated Press in Japan, and CNN, TV Asahi, and Nikkei BP in New York. He also has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business.