TOKYO (AP) _ Digital TV broadcasts for mobile phones equipped with special receivers began in Japan's major urban areas Saturday, following several months of test broadcasts.
But finding new phones in stores proved hard as eager consumers have already snapped up the limited number of handsets on the market. Japan's major mobile carriers say sales are good, but have not disclosed numbers.
Japan's mobile TV service is not the world's first _ South Korea, Britain and several other nations offer a similar service, although with different technologies. Mobile users in some parts of the United States can also tap into digital broadcasts.
But the new service in Japan, which is free, will potentially reach the broadest market yet through the country's terrestrial digital broadcast system, which relays images through the air via TV towers, not satellites.
It also uses broadcasting air waves, rather than an Internet connection, to relay streaming video.
Japan's 90 million mobile phone users already play video games, download music files, exchange e-mail, read news, trade stocks, store digital photos and surf the Web _ all on tiny handset screens half the size of a business card.