Mobile TV has not made the top headlines this year, but was an important theme at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.
Improving the video usage experience on mobiles is key to driving the adoption of mobile multimedia services in the mass-market, and therefore it is key to the future of this industry.
As of early 2008 mobile TV is a reality, worldwide. According to Ericsson, there are more than 170 mobile TV offerings launched around the world, most of which are over cellular networks. The Swedish vendor supplies solutions to over 60 of these. Nokia Siemens Network said it provides its solutions to 30 unicast services and six DVB-H commercial launches.
For many operators, early mobile TV services have not had much success so far and are still a small niche. But at the MWC, Telstra reported encouraging progress for mobile TV services delivered over its HSDPA 'Next G' network and Alcatel Lucent's mobile TV platform. The Australian incumbent said 5% of its Next G customers subscribe to Foxtel Mobile services (at AUD12 per month).
The evolution of mobile TV will require a broadcast component.
At the MWC, vendors provided some news regarding the progress of various mobile broadcast solutions.
Alcatel Lucent's DVB-SH, a hybrid solution combining satellite and terrestrial broadcasting, is progressing toward a commercial launch with ICO in the US, with a focus on the vehicular segment (with dedicated non-cellular large-screen terminals installed in vehicles).
Elsewhere it is still at trial stage (eg, with SFR, 3 Italy).
There are roll-out opportunities for DVB-SH in Europe, following the allocation by the end of 2008 of an EU-wide 30 MHz band reserved to hybrid systems, and also in Middle East with S2M's mobile TV project in the region. On the device side, Alcatel Lucent is showing only two DVB-SH devices from Samsung and Sagem.
Nextwave's TDtv is still a contender in the mobile broadcast space, thanks to the announcement of a commercial pilot with Orange and T-Mobile in the UK. The pilot will involve 1000 customers from Orange and 1000 from T-Mobile, in West/Central London, over six months from Q3 2008. It is interesting to note that the two operators will share the TDtv infrastructure and also the UMTS TDD frequencies, in order to make a better business case thanks to increased capacity and lower rollout costs. There will be 24 TV channels in total (10 common, seven exclusive to Orange and seven exclusive to T-Mobile) and 10 digital radio stations. Still, TDtv struggles with the lack of handset supported, with only one mobile phone used in the pilot.
Ericsson continues to support MBMS and has announced the first commercial roll-outs of MBMS in the next 12 months.
Finally, Nokia's N96 device, which will be a strong addition to the line-up of DVB-H devices, will be available in the third quarter 2008.
Another important theme is mobile TV and convergence. Several players announced solutions that blend together unicast and broadcast, for instance Nokia Siemens Network, Alcatel-Lucent, or Streamezzo.
This combines in the same offering and EPG channels that are distributed via the cellular network and channels that are distributed via a broadcast network, and therefore hide the delivery technology to end users. Also, these capabilities are required to provide interactive services onto broadcast channels.
Advertising was also a key theme for the MWC this year. It is naturally becoming a central concern for players involved in developing mobile TV and video services, which see an opportunity to develop new ad-funded business models. One of the most concrete developments of advertising for mobile TV has been the announcement of an ad-funded video service by Vodafone Italy, prior to the show. QuickPlay is providing the technology that manages the video content and the video ads, and inserts ads into the content, while Amobee provides the mobile advertising platform.
On the other hand, mobile advertising in live channel broadcasting has not seen much progress yet, with only some point solutions available, such as banners and interactive services from Streamezzo, and local ad insertion in DVB-H from UD Cast.