TV goes mobile in the Philippines

12 Feb 2014

ITEM: Television broadcasters in the Philippines are racing to go mobile.

Take ABS-CBN, which launched its ABS-CBNmobile MVNO in December via Globe Telecom. Apart from prepaid voice, SMS and data, ABS-CBNmobile also offers premium access to its TV shows and content. Earlier this week, ABS-CBNmobile launched an app version of its live-streaming site,, according to Tech In Asia.

Meanwhile, PLDT-owned TV5 is reportedly planning to launch its own MVNO via sister cellco Smart Communications later this year. And GMA Network is in talks with two telcos to stream its video content to mobile devices, Tech In Asia reports.

All this bustle by broadcasters to go mobile is interesting when you look at it in the context of mobile TV making a comeback of sorts.

Ten years ago the industry was very bullish on the idea of linear broadcast TV on mobile devices, and vendors bandied about a wide variety of standards to enable it – DVB-H, MediaFLO, 1sec, T-DMB, CMMB, MBMS, etc.

For the most part, mobile broadcast TV never really took off except in a handful of markets. But now it’s back in the form of “evolved MBMS” (eMBMS, a.k.a. LTE Broadcast), a 3GPP standard that allows cellcos to broadcast video (or anything else) on existing LTE networks.

Two weeks ago, KT launched the world’s first commercial service using LTE Broadcast. Telstra has been doing live demos of LTE Broadcast on its LTE network. And in the Philippines, Smart conducted an eMBMS trial last November. All of which indicates that the desire for mobile TV is still alive.

However, while eMBMS might solve the technical implementation issues created by older standards, the chief challenge for cellcos remains coming up with (1) content that viewers want, and (2) a business model to make it pay.

In the Philippines, at least, it looks like broadcasters prefer the direct route to their viewers, either via MVNO or streaming apps – or both. At least the former keeps cellcos in the loop as a platform provider.

Once cellcos incorporate broadcast capabilities into their LTE networks, however, their relationship with broadcasters could get really interesting.

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