Analysis: Mobile TV standards problem may never be solved


From previous posts, you might know that I am always quite optimistic about Mobile TV – well a report from In-stat is a real humdinger in terms of good and bad news – the good being that the M-TV market could be worth $12bn in 2012, the bad being that the fragmented standards are here to stay. Here are some of the higlights:

  • “DVB-H, ATSC-M/H, CMMB, ISDB-T, DVB-SH, T-DMB, and MediaFLO are just some of the most common standards currently in place or in development. And among these, there is even further disunion between free, pay-as-you-go, and subscription-based services”
  • “The study shows that even though South Korea was the first country where mobile TV found a large audience, it is actually the European Union’s chosen standard DVB-H that has the most widely used in terms of operator coverage”
  • In terms of popularity (i.e. number of users) “Japan’s OneSeg had reached over 20 million users in less than two years, and some userbase estimates of South Korea’s long running T-DMB standard exceed 10 million

There are also of course other “Mobile TV” services that don’t rely on broadcast technologies. MBMS for example is a 3G-multicast technology, and there is 3G unicast in both industry standard and bespoke flavours – an example of the last of these is MobiTV, which…”just announced breaking 4 million subscribers (it reached the three million mark in October 2007 after just under four years with Sprint.)

As with a number of recent reports I have read, the main “problem”, if you like, is monetization, or in other words, the “business case” – it seems most industry people just can’t get it to work, especially when you factor in any kind of network build costs (all the broadcast scenarios require new hardware in the network, and in most cases, the handset).

The report goes on to say that handsets are a really big issue too – for something to work mass-market, the big five handset vendors at least need to get behind it – whilst all of them are behind M-TV as a concept, they are divergent in their thinking about which technology they support to deliver it.

I am not so sure that the fragmented nature of the standards is the worst thing in the world – just as some trends, content, and ideas are region or culture-specific, so can the practical deployment of the technology be – for me, at the moment, the real issue is making Mobile TV pay….


  • Diana Jovin

    In-Stat’s report also talks about the emergence of free-to-air mobile TV and in fact, predicts that the number of analog mobile TV viewers will exceed the number of digital mobile TV viewers in 2009. What’s interesting from a business model perspective about offering free-to-air mobile TV (whether analog or digital) is that it allows operators to deliver solutions immediately to market without significant investment or risk as it leverages the existing TV broadcast ecosystem. From there operators can explore different revenue streams that can be developed on top of the free-to-air broadcast content. Some examples are 1) increased use of the data network, for example, through SMS; 2) targeted advertising and 3) up-sell to premium content. The latter, in fact, is the model that has worked well in traditional television business models, with consumers having free access to local channels and then subscribing to premium content through cable or satellite services. For existing subscription mobile TV services, it is questionable as to whether droves of consumers are going to pay for limited content and limited coverage, and without widespread adoption, subscriber fees will not cover the significant investment required to roll out new digital infrastructure.

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