August 18, 2008

Analog Shutdown Kills Free Cell-Phone Television

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Picture whipping out your cell phone and catching up with "Lost" or "Jeopardy," or watching the local 11 o'clock news, all for free.

You can do this with an imported Chinese phone, but you can't with any phone sold in the U.S. - at least not without monthly charges.

This is one of the reasons the United States is behind several other countries when it comes to making television an option for cell phones.

Most phones sold in Japan can tune in to free TV broadcasts, and there are tens of millions of viewers. Cell phones that can tune in to free broadcasts are also available in South Korea, Germany and China.

But only 3 percent of Americans regularly watched video on their cell phones late last year, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

For starters, you can blame the impending shutdown of all full- power analog TV broadcasts on Feb. 17, a deadline set by the government. That Chinese handset, made by ZTE Corp., can only tune in to analog transmissions. Because most of them are going away, there's no real point in selling phones like that in the United States.

China is keeping its analog broadcasts until 2015, six years longer than the U.S., so the phones are viable there.

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