Insert lame 'yellow card' joke here

01 Aug 2006
00:00

The World Cup is a done deal, and as Italy spends the next few months celebrating its victory over France in the final, the rest of us can spend the next few months trying to adjust to the fact that it really is over. For tech-journos in Asia, that means two things. no more having to stay up until 5:00 am and no more tech press releases with blatantly gratuitous World Cup themes.
Of course, not all of them were gratuitous. Some were directly related to the World Cup - like content/apps companies offering FIFA-sanctioned mobile downloads or World Cup browser toolbars, or Motorola signing David Beckham as 'global brand ambassador'. Some were borderline gratuitous but still on-message - such as Argogroup's constant barrage of releases measuring how fast cellcos in countries with teams playing in the tournament were issuing SMS alerts and video clips about goals.
Slightly more gratuitous was CASBAA's pre-game press release reminding Hong Kong and everyone else in Asia that restaurants showing World Cup matches on TV without paying licenses were guilty of piracy. Fair call, but issuing Hong Kong a 'yellow card' was arguably an affectation too far.
If anyone had a legit reason to be hyping up the World Cup this year, it was the handful of mobile operators using the event as a chance to showcase mobile TV technology. After all, well before the opening match, analyst firms such as Informa Telecoms & Media were predicting that mobile TV would 'boom' this year thanks to interest driven by trials not only in host country Germany but in various European and Asian markets, where 3G or - in the case of Korea and Japan - mobile TV already exists commercially.

Marketing mayhem
Who could blame them‾ Not me. I've considered the World Cup to be a potential key driver of mobile TV ever since I watched the 2002 semi-finals on a Casio JY-90 analog TV set whilst untethered in Hong Kong. And there's little doubt that interest in mobile TV has soared in markets like Germany, the UK, Korea and Australia, among others, thanks to various operators promoting World Cup-related mobile TV packages. South Korea's three T-DMB operators reported a 50% increase in handset sales in June, which they attribute to World Cup fever. In Australia, Hutchison 3 reported that customers connected to mobile highlights or full-match broadcasts about 300,000 times in the first two weeks of the World Cup (before Australia was eliminated).
What we haven't seen - at least not as of mid-July as we went to press - are the press releases hailing the mobile TV trials as a roaring success. And if the anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, we may not see those for a while.
Google 'mobile TV world cup', and you'll find a number of reports from journos and bloggers on their experience with mobile TV. Some are qualified successes (i.e. not as bad as users were expecting). Others report jerky pictures, dropped frames and frozen images.
Granted, problems and glitches were inevitable. Even before the World Cup, reports from Korea have given T-DMB poor marks for reception, coverage and battery life. The toughest challenge to implementing mobile TV - apart from spectrum acquisition - was always going to be content and marketing, not the technology. On the other hand, the question is how hard mobile operators will have to work to convince disgruntled trial users to come back when the technology is more mature.

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