Watching TV on the run

Tired of gabbing, writing text messages and playing games on your mobile phone to kill time? Try watching some TV.

I've done just that for the past two weeks. And the experience has been, well, entertaining, to be honest.

Let me say from the start that I'm not a big TV viewer, but when I view it's generally in one of three areas: news, sports and movies. All three are available in the Live portal of German network operator Vodafone D2 GmbH, one of Europe's first operators to offer a mobile TV service.

The mobile TV offering, designed especially for higher-speed 3G (third-generation) phones, currently offers a series of rotating shows, a sports channel that gives a roundup of the Saturday games shortly after they've finished, a news channel updated four times a day, and full-length movies. Live news or sports coverage is not available today but technically possible and likely to be offered in the not-too-distant future, according to Vodafone D2.

Because mobile TV is about viewing on the go, I checked out the service in a car, train and streetcar. Reception in all three was fine as long as I remained in a 3G cell -- which meant that when I recently boarded a train in Frankfurt, I lost reception shortly outside of the city. That's a shame because I think many train commuters (and Germany has plenty of them) would readily use the mobile TV service.

Third-generation coverage is still spotty because most operators in Europe, including Vodafone D2, are initially concentrating on big cities. However, coverage will be gradually extended to major roadways and railways, and later to smaller communities.

The streetcar test was interesting. I found nearly everyone standing near me in the crowded compartment trying to get a peek of what I was watching: the N24 news channel.

The highway test was a lesson in itself. I let my young boys, who are under 12, view some programs on the phone, Motorola Inc.'s sleek E1000, while I sped around the autobahn near D

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