Analysts remains bullish on mobile TV prospects

TechOnline India - March 23, 2009

Despite recent setbacks and disappointing numbers on the uptake, Cantab Wireless (Cambridge, England) estimates that the number of people receiving mobile TV will reach 472 million by 2013.

LONDON — Despite recent setbacks and disappointing numbers on the uptake, Cantab Wireless (Cambridge, England) estimates that the number of people receiving mobile TV will reach 472 million by 2013.

Not surprisingly, the researchers say subscriber growth will be strongest in Asia at first, especially in Korea and Japan.

From 2010 onwards, Europe and the U.S. are expected to catch up. However, Cantab Wireless argues that in Europe the shortage of radio spectrum before the analogue TV networks shutdown may delay the launch of mobile TV networks in some countries, most importantly in the U.K.

The researchers also suggest that from 2012-2013 onwards, cellular operators may start providing mobile TV services via their upgraded LTE networks, which will offer greatly increased capacity. They will become serious competitors to broadcast TV systems.

Cantab Wireless argues the current economic slowdown will have only a temporary effect on mobile TV uptake.

Juha Korhonen, who researched the latest report for Cantab Wireless — which includes a thorough review of the various and competing mobile TV standards— notes that: "Even more important than choosing the right technical standard is choosing the right business model."

He adds it is not yet obvious exactly how to make money in the mobile TV business. Various business models have been tried and tested around the world, some successfully and some less so.

The main competition is said to be between a model based on broadcast TV, and another focusing on cellular telephony.

TV broadcasters believe that they should be in charge in the Mobile TV business because they are familiar with the TV business, they have established relationships with content producers and they also often have access to physical broadcast networks.

Cellular operators, on the other hand, know the business of mobile devices. They have distribution channels for mobile TV receivers, which are often integrated into mobile phones, and they have contract and charging relationships with mobile customers.

However, cellular operators typically do not have access to content, and neither can they provide mobile TV to masses via cellular networks since these networks currently lack the necessary capacity.

Korhonen argues that, in reality, both need each other and a successful mobile TV system has to find a business model which benefits both parties.

The report argues that in the medium term, broadcast mobile TV systems will be popular. However, in the long run, point-to-point mobile TV channels, delivered via upgraded high capacity cellular networks, will become the more popular service.

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{pagebreak}Meanwhile, a report from consultancy Arthur D. Little suggests about 40 million users watch mobile TV based on broadcast networks, in addition to those watching mobile TV streams via 3G networks, but that this is well below initial projections and only about 1 percent of all mobile phone users.

Even the business models in markets with sizeable numbers of broadcast mobile TV subscribers - such as Japan with 18 million, South Korea with 17 million or Italy with well over 1 million - have not yet become viable commercial success stories.

The consultancy proposes four ways to improve mobile TV business models:

Regulators need to support the set-up and potential success of emerging mobile TV businesses; benchmarks show that national telecommunication and media authorities play a fundamental role in supporting or hindering the success of broadcast mobile TV.

All key players need to work on lowering the costs of delivering broadcast mobile TV services; the profit potential from broadcast mobile TV services for mobile operators is low. In an exemplary country market, mobile operators can only generate E1 profit per mobile TV subscriber - under the condition that a critical mass of 10% of all mobile phone users in the market subscribe to broadcast mobile TV services at a monthly fee of E6. Therefore, any plans for new broadcast mobile TV businesses must ask the question: "How to bring down the three key cost drivers: network roll-out outs, incremental handset subsidies and content costs?"

The industry needs to improve the service and price attractiveness of broadcast mobile TV to end-users; the price, usability and attractiveness of broadcast mobile TV services need to be continuously improved, for example, by providing improved outdoor and indoor network coverage and improving the TV channel bouquet.

Mobile operators need to factor in indirect benefits from offering broadcast mobile TV; mobile operators can use broadcast mobile TV services to differentiate their services, increase customer loyalty or offload traffic from 3G streaming TV services.

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