Free-to-air mobile TV budding in Asia

Omar Javaid, Qualcomm
22 Dec 2008

Mobile TV deployments have commanded some success in Asia and across the globe, leading analyst houses such as Juniper Research to predict that the global market will increase more than tenfold from $1.7 billion in 2007 to $11.9 billion in 2012. Here in Asia, substantial take-up in mobile TV services is widely anticipated with more than four billion people and one of the fastest growing mobile phone penetration rates in the world at over 1.1 billion subscribers.

However, before mobile TV can become a mass market service in Asia, the industry needs to adopt a business model that will allow parties at all stages in the value chain to generate a ROI and secure long-term success.

Various mobile broadcast standards have been successfully launched in markets in Asia and all over the world, such as in Korea and Japan. This demonstrates that achieving the best possible mobile TV experience rests on creating a compelling and addictive user experience that keeps users coming back for more, and delivering a large channel availability to allow access to a broad range of content while enabling operators to differentiate their services and devices.

Before we can even begin to contemplate achieving the success that is predicted for the mobile TV market in Asia, we need to first engage with mobile viewers and ensure that their first experience with mobile TV is the best possible.

Many consumers equate mobile TV with 3G streaming services that their wireless operators provide. These services have proven to be of high interest to a wide range of tech-savvy users who are interested in mobile content. In fact, primary research from Spear & Associates found that mobile consumers rank mobile video second only to voice.

However, in some cases, mobile TV demand has been so great that 3G network providers have had difficulty keeping pace with user interest in popular programming such as large sporting events. In contrast, dedicated broadcast technologies are better suited and more cost-effective for the delivery of high-quality multimedia content to mobile devices on a mass scale.

Free-to-air (FTA) mobile TV services based on digital TV broadcast technologies have been able to secure relatively high adoption rates in some Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. As of 2007, more than 30 million ISDB-T handsets have been sold in Japan and over six million T-DMB handsets have been sold in Korea. While these mobile TV deployments have greatly increased user awareness, adoption and usage, they have been positioned as free services and therefore have not yet achieved a high ROI for operators and content providers.

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