Mobile TV: A work in progress

Vincent Poulbere/Ovum
19 Feb 2008

Mobile TV has not made the top headlines this year but it was an important theme at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) last week in Barcelona. Improving the video usage experience on mobiles is key to driving the adoption of mobile multimedia services in the mass-market, and hence it is key to the future of this industry. Several announcements at MWC have shown some good progress on various fronts for the mobile TV and video space.

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 towards 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 (e.g. with SFR, 3 Italy). There are rollout opportunities for DVB-SH in Europe, following the allocation by the end of 2008 of an EU-wide 30MHz 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 1,000 customers from Orange and 1,000 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 (ten common, seven exclusive to Orange and seven exclusive to T-Mobile) and ten 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 rollouts of MBMS in the next 12 months.

"¢ Finally, let's also mention Nokia's N96 device, which will be a strong addition to the line-up of DVB-H devices. It will be available in Q3 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 and Streamezzo. This combines in the same offering EPG channels that are distributed via the cellular network and channels that are distributed via a broadcast network, and thus hide the delivery technology to the end-users.

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