BERLIN If the climax of Tuesday's Brazil-Croatia World Cup match here last night was soundthe deafening roar of 72,000 fans cheering the only goal by Brazil's Kakathe anticlimax was definitely video, and the disappointing user experience of trying to watch a mobile handset in the stadium.
The jerky pictures, dropped frames and frozen images on my mobile handset took me back a decade to my first headache-inducing struggle viewing "moving" pictures inside a postage-stamp frame on a PC screen.
I almost waxed nostalgic.
Admittedly, I have followed the development of mobile TV technologies more intently than the average user. I've built up perhaps unreasonably great expectations for mobile TV. So I had high hopes that World Cup '06 would be the defining moment for mobile TV.
The key, I thought, was actually watching mobile TV broadcast signals on a mobile phone in a real-world setting, not the controlled environment of a trade-show demonstration.
I should have known better.
Using a mobile TV handset here, I learned a hard truth: Signal conditions trump everything. If all you've got is a weak signal, there is little to see or appreciate in a mobile TV broadcast.
The handset in question was a Pocket PC made by HTC. I used a Philips Semiconductors RF TV tuner/demodulator system-in-a-package housed in a SD card to enable DVB-H reception. All I had to do to watch the match was insert the tiny SD card, which included a third-party antenna, into the handset.
The mobile TV signal was generated by T-System, which currently serves as a DVB-H platform operator. It broadcasts 14 TV and six radio programs. DVB-H-based mobile TV signals are now available in Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover and Munich during the World Cup as part of German trials.
Admittedly, the handset and DVB-H receiver/demodulation chip I used weren't among the official devices currently being used in the German DVB-H trials. Moreover, what I was seeing was somewhat contrived: signals were broadcast in a real world setting, but they were restricted to the trials.
T-System was most likely exploring exactly how many more low-power transmission towers it will need before "reasonable" mobile TV reception is possible.
Still, I had to ask myself as I squinted at the match on the Pocket PC: "I'm supposed to be excited about this?"
Reality bites. You can't enjoy mobile TV with lousy signal conditions.