European ministers plan to have a mobile TV system up and running in time for the European football championships in 2008.

They’re aiming to meet the predicted demand from fans for broadcasts on handheld devices during the tournament.

Britain, Finland and Italy’s mobile TV markets have already grown rapidly. Recent European trials revealed a strong consumer interest in mobile TV, including one in Germany during the 2006 Football World Cup and the launch of the first commercial services in countries such as Italy and Finland. A mobile TV trial is also planned in China for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

At the Cebit trade show Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, favoured DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds) technology, which has already been taken up by Italy and Finland, over the T-DMB (Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) spec.

Reding highlighted the importance of averting a costly rivalry between the two standards to ensure their progression. She went on to say that the European Commission realizes mobile TV platforms and enabled devices need to be interoperable for large-scale take up by European consumers. The Commission therefore advised that instead of each country developing its own mobile TV market there should be a coordinated EU strategy.

"With an estimated worldwide market of €11.4bn by 2009, mobile TV represents an opportunity for Europe to combine its strength in mobile communications with the richness and diversity of its audiovisual sector," said Reding.

"However, I am disappointed about the lack of progress made so far,” she said. “To fully reap the benefits of this market and to export a European model for mobile TV as we did with GSM for mobile phones, industry and Member States must work more closely together to devise a common approach.”

The Commission has invested €40m in mobile TV-related research and supported the development of the open Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) standards, which cover mobile broadcasting.

"European industry has already developed successful standards in the past, and I am very confident that on the basis of DVB-H, mobile TV services can develop the economies of scale they need for take-up across Europe and around the world," said Reding.

Availability of wireless spectrum will also play a large part in the take up of mobile TV. It is thought the switchover from traditional analogue to digital broadcasting will free up premium spectrum in the UHF band.

The Commission is also working to define an EU-wide approach for re-using spectrum for services such as mobile TV which will be set out in a Commission Communication later this year.