Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and five private broadcasters said Wednesday they will start offering terrestrial digital broadcasting services for mobile phones by the end of fiscal 2005, marking the first such venture in history.

The announcement followed an agreement earlier in the day between the six Japanese broadcasters and MPEG LA — a U.S.-based organization that manages rights to image-data compressing technologies — over licensing fee payments.

Analog broadcasts can already be seen via mobile handsets but tend to suffer from image distortions. While digital broadcasts can offer sharper images, the broadcasters needed to conclude an agreement with MPEG LA on what licensing fees they should pay, as digital image data must be compressed by one of the available technologies.

The five private broadcasters are Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc., Nippon Television Network Corp., TV Asahi Corp., Fuji Television Network Inc. and Television Tokyo Channel 12 Ltd.

Now that the agreement with MPEG LA has been concluded, mobile phone makers will step up efforts to develop cell phones capable of receiving terrestrial digital broadcasts.

Mobile phone operators are also ready for the new service. Keiji Tachikawa, president of NTT DoCoMo Inc., said the biggest Japanese cell phone operator will “positively cooperate” in receiving terrestrial digital broadcasts.

Taro Aso, minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications, issued a statement saying the new service will “revolutionize the pattern of viewing broadcasts and greatly contribute to the spread of terrestrial digital broadcasting as a whole.”

Terrestrial digital broadcasting services were launched in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya in December.

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