SBS Broadcasting's Kiss FM in Finland has already been broadcasting Visual Radio - a service that supplements audio with interactive information and images - since 4 March and Virgin Radio is set to be the first UK station to support the service by the end of spring.
Visual Radio pumps two streams to mobile phone users: the standard FM signal and a second image-based channel. The facility lets the station show pictures and information allowing direct interactivity, from competitions and polls to buying concert tickets and ringtones.While creating new revenue streams for broadcasters, it also allows real-time audience measurement - a service that critics of radio body Rajar may appreciate.
Mobile phone operators can benefit by charging for access or a bundled service, similar to the split between pay-as-you-go and monthly tariffs. The HP-hosted software necessary for Visual Radio broadcasting is being offered free to broadcasters to stimulate take-up.
Nokia marketing manager Reidar Wasenius said at an SBS Broadcasting conference in Amsterdam last week that Nokia had been approached by two other mobile phone manufacturers about licensing Visual Radio - a move that could see its widespread adoption.
Only the Nokia 7710, 3230 and 6230i handsets can currently receive the service but it is expected that 100 million Visual Radio-compatible handsets will be on the market by the end of 2006.