Harshdeep 2.0

March 28, 2006

The hype about Mobile TV

Filed under: Mobile — harshdeep @ 8:30 pm

Would you want to watch TV on your mobile phone? Irrespective of your answer, thousands of people all over the world are working tirelessly to bring TV to your phone. They have their reasons for this. For telecom operators, a new service means more revenue per user. Content providers are excited about a whole new way of pushing video content to the consumer.

For the consumer, unlike many other mobile services, this one is easy to understand.

But it's gonna be interesting to see how these companies make consumers want to watch video on small mobile phone screens. I, as a consumer, won't be interested in watching entire movies or TV serial episodes on my mobile phone. But news clips, sports highlights and music videos seem to be interesting if I don't have to pay through my nose for that. In India, you can already download clips of Great India Laughter Challenge and Cricket highlights. The existence of such services and the popularity of video iPod means that people are actually willing to watch videos on the tiny screen and even pay for it.

Current Penetration

Broadcast Mobile TV is already available in South Korea. In the less mobile-savvy parts of the world, companies are still testing waters. Cingular, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel offer on-demand video services. Cingular also provides a live TV service through MobiTV. Report

Finnish broadcast, content and mobile communications companies are pilot testing Mobile TV in the Helsinki Metropolitan area since autumn 2004.

Nokia estimates suggest that around 20% of active mobile phone users are highly interested in Mobile TV service and prepared to pay a realistic charge for it – around 10 to 12 euros a month.

Technology
This is where it gets kinda murky. There's no one standard for providing Mobile TV – different operators are testing different standards that require different hardware and are generally incompatible with each other. Various standards being tried out are –

  • S-DMB and T-DMB (Satellite or Terrestrial Digital Media Broadcasting) Currently being used in South Korea.
  • DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) Being used by Virgin Mobile UK. It uses the same technology as T-DMB and spectrum available in most parts of the world.
  • DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting to Handhelds) Being used by TIM, Italy. The preferred spectrum for this standard is the UHF spectrum but that is taken by analog TV in most of the countries. Nokia is a big supporter of DVB-H.Reasons they mention are – low initial investment, good picture quality, efficient battry and bandwidth consumption, device interoperability and security
  • MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service)
  • QUALLCOM's MediaFLO (Forward Link Only)

It would definitely be better for the penetration of Mobile TV if one of these standards comes out as a clear winner. In any case, it would be interesting to keep an eye on this emerging field.

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