SARFT's grand CMMB ambitions

14 Feb 2008

SARFT's tender for national mobile TV network reveals the scale of its ambitions for mobile TV and possibly beyond.

The film and media regulator has called a tender for terminals to support its CMMB service in 37 mainland cities, IT reported. The end-user devices aren't confined to mobile phones - PC-makers and set-top boxes are also welcome to bid. Reportedly, Lenovo, ZTE and Aigo have already completed tender preparations.

The tender is being undertaken by the SARFT wireless department, which has been responsible for driving the CMMB program and building the networks nationwide. Most likely, it will become the operator of the future CMMB network.

It has been reported somewhat hopefully that SARFT was planning a free CMMB service during the Olympics. The tender documents show that, like TD-SCDMA, CMMB will not be around on any sort of scale to deliver Olympics coverage.

However, SARFT has called for three different kinds of terminals, of which one needs to be supplied within 30 days, so some sort of kit will be in the market. And the Beijing CMMB terrestrial network has reportedly already been rolled out, so CMMB is aiming to have some kind of Olympics footprint.

What the tender shows is that, CMMB is not just a national champion for mobile TV, and not just one that has the imprimatur support of the top propaganda and security officials. The scale of the network makes SARFT an operator of a commercially significant new media platform, with the ability to send datacasting of all kinds of information as well as TV and video.

CMMB has the ability to impact on the carefully-laid plans of China Mobile and Unicom for mobile TV. Of course, given the proliferation of mobile TV standards, the industry may be already hopelessly balkanized. In any case, the cellcos clearly have a mobile TV fight on their hands.

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