Tapping the right mobile TV 'channel'

15 Aug 2006


'Only a small percentage of users will watch the usual broadcast channels - the rest are more likely to watch more specific, on-demand content that's driven more by menus than schedules. It's a whole new way of watching TV, and operators must plan their networks for that.'

Mobile TV 30-second primer: unicast vs broadcast vs multicast

Unicast: point-to-point video streamed separately to every terminal in the cell requesting mobile TV. Whether video is delivered via the 3G data channel or the circuit-switched video call channel, unicast means each user eats up more bandwidth that can get eaten up quickly if too many viewers try to access the service at once - which also impacts access to other services on the same network.

Broadcast: point-to-multipoint video transmitted only once over the entire service area. Users view the same stream without requiring additional bandwidth per user. However, because mobile TV service requires a wide selection of channels that must be broadcast all at once, it requires a wide swath of bandwidth - one reason why broadcast-based technologies like DVB-H and DMB require separate spectrum. Broadcast is also one-way, which means interactivity must be done separately.

Multicast: similar to broadcast in terms of viewers sharing the same stream, but instead of sending the signals constantly over the entire coverage area, multicast delivers only to those parts of the network where users are tuning in, which makes for more efficient use of spectrum.

The lure of advertising

- Joan Engebretson

In addition to sorting out which technology or wholesaler to use to support their mobile broadcast television deployments, carriers and other stakeholders also will need to resolve how to pursue advertising opportunities and apportion any resulting revenue streams.
'The real wild card is advertising,' says Bob Shallow, director of multimedia experiences for Nokia. Shallow notes that most television programming in the US includes a local commercial every half-hour that is treated in different ways on different platforms. Cable television operators, for example, use it to sell interconnects, while DirecTV uses it to promote itself.
'It's not clear how this will be handled in the mobile space,' says Shallow. 'It's safe to presume that terms will be negotiated between the broadcaster and the cellular operator about who controls what portion of the investment.'
Bryan McGuirk, president of the media solutions group at SES Americom, which is providing infrastructure to support Aloha Partners' Hiwire mobile television network, had a previous career in advertising and is particularly enthusiastic about the possibilities. He notes that most consumer package goods manufacturers today spend the majority of their advertising budgets on tailored localized advertising and promotions.
'That's what we'll be able to tap into,' he says. 'The mobile device is perfect to make advertising relevant and timely. Advertisers will want to take advantage and even pay a premium for that.'
Because mobile broadcast television will be deployed over dual-mode mobile handsets, it will be relatively easy to add an interactive component, such as the ability to immediately contact an advertiser in response to a commercial.


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