Tapping the right mobile TV 'channel'

15 Aug 2006


The upshot is that as operators assess the various technology choices in deploying mobile TV and subsequent business models, one thing they're discovering is that there's no one-size-fits-all solution, and any choice is loaded with challenges.

Offloading TV
Top of the list is the fact that the chief mobile TV technologies jockeying for mindshare - DMB, DVB-H, Japan's ISDB-T and MediaFLO - all require cellcos to deploy additional network infrastructure.

The reason, of course, is that doing mobile TV on 3G puts a serious load on the network, says Sean Koh, regional technical manager for multimedia and messaging solutions at Siemens.
'If you do streaming video over a 3G network, your cell shrinks,' says Koh. 'DVB-H lets you broadcast streaming video so it doesn't eat into your cellular bandwidth.'

David Glidden, director of television strategy and mobile television for mobile broadcast equipment manufacturer Harris Corp, offers this scenario: 'If you were to assume that subscriber levels get to the range of 15% to 20%, and that they're watching 20 minutes a day, on average, it would be a rather significant increase in the loading on a unicast cellular network,' he says.
That said, broadcast-based mobile TV presents its own set of challenges, says Mike Katz, product marketing director of video products for NMS Communications.

'If you go with a technology like DVB-H, you need new handsets, new spectrum, a new network, additional radio equipment, you have to have backhaul for the traffic, and you have to put all of the layering architecture in place, just before you can even think about offering a service,' he says.

That said, with dozens of trials of DVB-H and DMB underway around the worlds, there's some debate over just how concerned operators really are about infrastructure costs.
'The much bigger question for them is what will it take to get a broadcast network up and running‾' asks Nick Pilbeam, Asia-Pacific Networks and Enterprise MD for Motorola's Strategic Business division. 'For example, you need as many channels as possible, because people won't just watch what you give them. So if that's the driver on the revenue side, then you need a technology that can support it.'

Competing standards
As for which technology has the strongest offer, that varies more by environment than actual technological merit. Even though DMB technology has the advantage of being proven in Korea - and has generated serious interest in China and a handful of European operators -  it has stirred little interest in the US, perhaps because the satellite version is too expensive and the terrestrial version offers fewer channels than US consumers desire. Qualcomm is, of course, using its own MediaFLO technology, while both Modeo and Hiwire are going with DVB-H.

DVB-H is also building traction in Asia Pacific via a regional initiative, the DVB-H Asia Pacific Alliance (DAPA), founded in June by The Bridge Networks, Indonesia's MECA, Malaysia's MiTV, Nokia and Intel, which aims to establish a DVB-H regional forum to support regulatory preparation for DVB-H adoption, as well as keep members briefed on technological updates and best practices.


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