Mobile TV, once touted as 'the technology' does not yet seem to be having any luck.
Mobile television suffered another setback when the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to delay the broadcast airwaves' long-planned transition to all-digital services from Feb. 17 to June 12, a move that effectively forces Qualcomm to postpone plans to increase its MediaFLO TV footprint until early summer. Qualcomm previously said it would turn on FLO TV service in more than 40 additional U.S. cities on Feb. 17, an expansion timed to coincide with a federal law mandating that all full-power television stations must terminate analog broadcasting on that date. The transition to digital television frees up the 700 MHz spectrum auctioned last year by the FCC--Qualcomm spent more than $500 million acquiring eight licenses during the auction, and hopes to serve about 200 million potential mobile TV subscribers in more than 100 U.S. markets by the close of 2009. But with the Nielsen Company estimating that 6.5 million American households remain unprepared for the switch to digital TV, and Congress mulling a stimulus package that includes as much as $650 million in financing for coupons to ease the transition, Qualcomm must now sit tight for four additional months.
According to a report from Nielsen Mobile, only 5% of all U.S. cell phone owners subscribe to a mobile TV service. Yet that number is the highest out of of all the other worldwide markets tracked by the company. Only France and Italy came close, each at 4 percent. According to Nielsen, mobile video use isn't more prevalent due to lack of differentiating capabilities, high cost, and lack of compelling content. In fact, we are now even seeing mobile video's plateau - a point where you would normally expect to see adoption slow considerably.
In the U.S., 10.3 million mobile phone subscribers watch video content on their mobile phones each month. These clips from mobile web sites, subscriptions delivered by the carrier, or through mobile "live" TV programming. But the mobile video subscription market has barely grown during the past year. In Q3 2007 it was at 6.4 percent and by Q3 2008 it was only 7.3 percent. And only 26% of subscribers who paid for mobile video services during the third quarter of 2008 used them at least once a month.
The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), announced that a new mobile DTV service will soon arrive in 22 U.S. cities, covering 35% of U.S. television households. The mobile service aims to provide live, local and national over-the-air digital television to mobile devices.
Included in the service are 63 stations from the 25 major broadcasters that are on board. Those include NBC Television, Gannett Broadcasting, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Fox Television, Belo Corp., Grey Television, Scripps Television, Hearst Argyle Television, ION Media Networks and Lin Television.
This mobile TV service may succeed where others have failed because it bypasses the carriers altogether. Instead, the service uses an ATSC broadcasting system to beam signals directly from the station to the mobile devices themselves. This unburdens the carriers from having to support the data transmissions - they just have to sell the phones.
If France doesn't decide to go down the DVB-H route, there are many who think that could signal the end of the road for the mobile broadcast standard in most European markets
According to one industry commentator, there's a lot riding on the French. Our source, who would rather not be named, thinks that if the French market does not decide to follow the DVB-H standard this year, then that could be the end for the mobile broadcast standard in the region as a whole.
Certainly, the signs have not been good elsewhere - and the industry is dogged by accusations of self-interest. For example, despite operator pressure, Nokia, which sits on 40-50% market share in most European markets, has not moved as fast as the industry had hoped to push DVB-H and DRM technology into its handsets.
According to the head end vendors, and this is a surprisingly widely held view, the issue has been that Nokia has tried to tie the sale of its network infrastructure to the development of its handset range.
"Nokia is saying, give us the head end, and we will give you the handsets," one competing vendor told us.
The China Digital Television Terrestrial Broadcasting (DTTB) System Standard, also known as GB20600-2006, became the mandatory national DTTB standard in August 2007.
GB20600-2006 was designed to deliver a consistent, high-quality digital TV viewing experience no matter where consumers are sitting: in their living room watching television or on a high-speed train watching shows on their cell phones. The technology can broadcast audio and video at transmission rates of greater than 24 Mbps to consumer devices. Because the mobile reception capability is inherently built into the standard, these consumer devices now have a mobile TV feature that works not only when stationary, but even while traveling at speeds greater than 200 km per hour.
The China television market is in the midst of a broadcast revolution because of this new free-to-air terrestrial DTV standard. GB20600-2006 is spurring station owners to broadcast HDTV signals to TVs and set-top boxes, creating a market opportunity that is larger than any other in the world. With 380 million television households, China is home to more televisions than any other country in the world. And nearly 70 percent of those households receive their programming via roof-top antenna.
At the same time, the GB20600-2006 standard is creating a significant new market for mobile TV services. There are more than 600 million cell phone subscribers in China and nearly seven million new mobile phones are purchased each month. Now that the free-to-air HDTV broadcast signal has become a reality, manufacturers of cell phones and other handheld mobile devices are rushing to incorporate mobile TV reception into their products.
Technical details are available here.
China also has its mobile specific TV standard called the CMMB (China Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting). Leading mobile TV chip-maker Siano Mobile Silicon's CMMB receiver chip, the SMS1180, has been selected to power CMMB mobile TV for leading Chinese phone-makers ZTE, Tianyu, CEC Telecom and MP3/4 giant AIGO.
The number of mobile TV subscribers in Korea grew by almost 60% in 2008 following aggressive marketing campaigns and the Beijing Olympics, reports the Yonhap News Agency.
The number of DMB users totalled 17.25 million at the end of 2008, up 59.9% from a year earlier, according to the Terrestrial-DMB Special Committee. South Korea started the world’s first DMB service in 2005, operated through terrestrial and satellite broadcasts.
According to the committee, which represents six service carriers, 15.4 million terrestrial DMB devices, including mobile phones, were sold as of the end of 2008, up 70% from the previous year. The number of subscribers to the satellite platforms (S-DMB) rose 45% annually to 1.85 million last year.
Telegent Systems announced that it has shipped more than 20 million mobile TV receivers since it launched the products in 2007.
The TV receivers have been rapidly adopted by consumers who want to watch the same TV on their mobiles that they enjoy on their home TVs.
Telegent’s receivers use the existing broadcast infrastructure, and allow consumers to watch local programming.
Telegent’s latest success is a deal with Telefónica Móviles Perú, to bring mobile TV to Telefónica’s ZTE i766 handset.
In order to continue its rapid growth, Telegent is expanding into the PC TV market in 2009 and adopting the digital standard DVB-T.