DStv Mobile is not exactly a new service. It was initially launched in 2007 but with FIFA World Cup around the corner, Multichoice (operators of DStv) found a need to re-launch the DStv Mobile service. The re-launch is a born out of a collaboration between DStv, MTN (Africa’s leading telecom operator) and Nokia (world leading mobile phone manufacturer).
The technology behind DStv Mobile is simple enough. The Mobile TV service is not streamed over the internet. Though one of the promises of 3G was Mobile TV, streaming live TV over the internet turned out to be impractical. Pushing a data-intensive service over a cellular network would simply result in a very congested network. Broadcasting mobile TV over the airwaves is much more efficient and cost-effective. In comes DVB-H. I summarized the following DVB-H definition from Wikipedia:
DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld) is one of three prevalent mobile TV formats. It is a technical specification for bringing broadcast services to mobile handsets. From March 2008, DVB-H is officially endorsed by the European Union as the “preferred technology for terrestrial mobile broadcasting”. DVB-H technology is a superset of the very successful DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial) system for digital terrestrial television, with additional features to meet the specific requirements of handheld, battery-powered receivers.
Getting on board
I obtained the Nokia 5330 Mobile TV Edition from MTN Ghana in Accra for 270 Ghana Cedis (about $193). The 5330 obtained directly from MTN comes with a complimentary DStv Mobile license valid 31st March 2011. Activating the service with MTN Ghana was a herculean task. At the time of buying the device, the DStv Mobile service was down and so the service could not be activated by MTN support staff. Subsequent calls to their customer service number yielded nothing as they insisted they could not give me the settings on phone. Incidentally, I arrived Lagos Nigeria a few days later. MTN Nigeria pushed their internet settings to the phone as soon as I inserted an MTN Nigeria SIM into the 5330. I accepted and activated the MTN NG internet settings. On my way out of the airport, I simply re-scanned the airwaves and was able to easily activate the DStv Mobile service on my own. NTA International was soon beamed to me from the tiny screens of the 5330.
The mobile TV service
In Nigeria, the DStv Mobile service comes with 11 channels in the following order:
The service currently covers 4 of the biggest cities in Nigeria: Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
Coverage in Lagos: the service is transmitted from 4 transmitters in the Lagos metropolis. I was able to enjoy it indoors and outdoors in Ikeja, Festac, and on the outskirts of Lagos as far as Redeemers’ Camp on Lagos/Ibadan Expressway.
Coverage in Accra: the service is transmitted from 3 transmitters, covering Kasoa, much of Accra and Tema as well as the neighbouring towns.
Since the phone earpiece doubles as the antenna for the 5330, the quality of TV reception depends on the position of the earpiece. In rooms, where the reception was patchy, re-positioning the earpiece helped.
Clearly, an attempt has been made to balance the variety of content offered. Replacing one of the 4 sport channels with one that offered western movies would have offered much more balance.
The service also comes with an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) that offers information about the programme on air and scheduled programmes for 24 hours. Should you connect to the service using a Nokia phone, you may also download & install an app from Nokia’s Ovi Store known as DStv Mobile Guide. It offers a detailed EPG.
The Nokia 5330 Mobile TV Edition
Nokia.com describes the 5330 as follows:
TV goes mobile
Taking mobile entertainment to the next level, the stylish Nokia 5330 Mobile TV edition is a television, music player, and digital camera – all in one.
Aside the Mobile TV functionality, the 5330 is a basic 3G phone. It is cute and attractive whilst being small enough to fit into any standard-sized pocket. Sliding the screen upwards reveals an elegant numeric keypad that makes texting a pleasure due to its sturdiness.
An in-built FM stereo radio (comes with RDS) and an in-built media player make the 5330 an attractive entertainment device. 3 dedicated music keys make the media player & mobile TV application even more effective. Other keys are dedicated to increasing/decreasing audio volume with another for locking/unlocking the keys. Slot in a Micro SD card (maximum 16GB allowed) and you’re in for a musical bliss as the 16GB would easily accommodate thousands of audio clips from your music collection. Note however that the 5330 is bundled with only a 1GB Micro SD card.
The in-built camera is pretty basic. It comes with an automatic flash and can take photos with a maximum resolution of 3.2 megapixels. The video camera can record at a maximum resolution of 320×240. If you do not have high expectations, you should not be disappointed by the basic camera.
The 5330 comes with 4 games pre-installed: Block’d, Diamond Rush, Rally Stars and Real Football 2010.
Other DVB-H compatible phones
DStv Mobile is not an exclusive preserve of the 5330. A few other phones have in-built capability for receiving DStv Mobile signals. Leading the pack are the following N-series phones: Nokia N92, Nokia N77 and Nokia N96. Others are: ZTE F900, ZTE F912. From Samsung: SGH-P910, SGH-P920, SGH-P930, SGH-P940, SGH-P960, SGH-F510. From LG: U900, KB620, KU950, U960, KB770, HB620T.
With the aid of an external mobile tv receiver known as Nokia SU-33W, a few more Nokia phones can join the party via bluetooth. The compatible phones at the time of writing are: Nokia 5530 XpressMusic, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia 6220 classic, Nokia E75, Nokia N73, Nokia N85, Nokia N86 8MP, Nokia N97, and Nokia N97 mini.
Note that you might have to seek the assistance of your service provider directly, if the devices do not receive the DStv Mobile service on their own.
DStv Mobile is currently available through MTN in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, through Safaricom in Kenya, and through MTC in Namibia.