Mobile Televison: The next big thing

SINGAPORE: While the rain Gods are showering upon the city of Singapore, there is an onslaught of discussions on the new technologies for broadcasting at the Broadcast Asia Summit 2006 being held in Expo City.

With a full house on a Monday morning, professionals from various media companies from Asia and elsewhere are lapping up all that there is to.

What with the revenue expectations for mobile TV globally pegged at $ 682 million within the next five years, broadcasters in the space are raring to go! Its popularity in the markets where it has been rolled out, will definitely help broadcasters meet that mark if not more.

The two morning sessions saw discussions and presentations on Asian digital cinema and also an update on delivering mobile television to handheld devices. The latter provided an international review and update on mobile television and an overview of the technology and services being offered across various countries like Italy, Japan, Korea, the UK and the US.

Consumers have reacted favourably to mobile television in the markets where the services have been launched. Close to 76 per cent consumers in the UK are willing to pay for mobile TV. On the other hand, consumers in Finland and France are willing to shell out € 10 and € 7 respectively per month for mobile TV.

In turn, what consumers want is good picture and sound quality, value for money, right selection of channels, service availability, simplicity of use and a multimedia device.

The speakers for the session comprised Broadcast Australia broadcast services director Clive Morton, Kobeta Korea manager of planning team Hyun Ho, Qualcomm MediaFLO director of international business development Jeffrey Brown, TBS Japan development manager Hidefumi Yasuda, Nokia director of strategy Juha Lipiainen, TeamCast France executive director Gerard Faria and Enenys France president and CEO Regis Le Roux.

While the service is gaining popularity, there seems to be ambiguity in terms of the regulations required for the same. Should the broadcaster be the ultimate content regulator for mobile TV or should it be the telecommunications company? That is one area where not much progress has been made. Brown said, "The spectrum regulation for mobile television services is fragmented per country per industry. It isn‘t clear still whether the broadcasting authority or the telecommunications authority is responsible for regulating content. But the transition is slowly happening as the industry is understanding the value of mobile television."

Interestingly, while the number one telecommunications company in Korea S K Telecom accepted and adopted this new technology easily, there was resistance from KTF and LG Telecom, who were reluctant to offer mobile television technology - T-DMB - on their mobile devices.

The reason behind this was that since mobile television was being offered free, consumers would watch more television on their handhelds and in turn use less of SMS and internet services, which in turn would mean a significant revenue loss for them. However, these two companies had to eventually succumb to the popularity of mobile television and started offering the technology on their devices late last year.

The requirements for a mobile TV device are:

*Watch up to four hours TV
*Large anti glare screen
*Simple to operate TV
*Recording capability
*Always up to date Electronic Service Guide
*Camera and camcorder to record own content
*Consumers use mobile television mostly to pass time, for example, while waiting for something. They also use it to stay updated with news, to relax or entertain oneself, as a background entertainment while doing other things, to create their own space ( e.g. in public transportation) or as a second TV while the household‘s TV is used by others.

The top three usage situations among active users of mobile TV are:

*When traveling using transportation
*When at home
*When at work

According to Brown, the potential mobile TV users globally in 2008 - 2010 will be in the range of 100 - 200 million. As per a research done by Nokia in major cities in 32 countries, it was found that by end 2005, there were two billion mobile phone subscribers globally and is expected to reach three billion by end 2009. While there were 735 million mobile phones sold in 2005, the projections for 2009 are 944 million.

So does mobile TV have future potential? Yes, but assuming that the pricing and content are in line with consumers‘ expectations and needs.

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