Thursday 8 January 2009

Mobile TV Wassup?

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding hasn't given up pushing Mobile TV on anyone who'll listen, and has just published a set of guidelines in the hope that gentle persuasion will work where attempted legislation failed.

The EU still apparently believes that Mobile TV is going to be worth €7.8bn by 2013 as everyone leaps to watch TV on their mobile phones, citing the 5,000 punters signed up on Austria as a clear indication of things to come if only everyone in Europe would agree to abide by the newly-published recommendations.

Unfortunately only Austria, Finland, France and Germany have shown any interest in Mobile TV - and it's hard to imagine many regulators agreeing to the recommendations which include awarding technology-specific licences, penalising operators who fail to build enough coverage, and mandating cross-border service compatibility.

The recommendations (pdf) make some play of the fact that DVB-H has been endorsed by the EU as a mobile television standard, without mentioning the fact that the EU already recognises competing-technology MBMS as part of the GSM standard, and that most regulators want more technology-neutral spectrum licensing. In the UK Qualcomm owns a huge chunk of spectrum, and has no qualms about deploying another DVB-H competitor, MediaFLO, if the market wants it.

Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms and Media Commissioner:

“Successful commercial launches of Mobile TV in Austria, Italy, Finland and the Netherlands have proved that efficient authorisation procedures are a key factor for the fast take-up of Mobile TV. In Austria, 5,000 citizens were using Mobile TV within the first weeks of its launch. With predicted growth in sales during the Christmas period, many more Europeans should have the opportunity to watch TV on the go. This is why we want to give Member States guidance on how to allow industry to get these innovative services on track as quickly and smoothly as possible. We stand for a collaborative approach between all actors involved including broadcasters, mobile operators and platforms operators, and we oppose heavy regulation or burdensome authorisation procedures for the introduction of Mobile TV in Europe.”

Meanwhile, Nokia unveiled its own mobile television channel in an attempt to showcase its latest multimedia device and persuade users to finally embrace watching programmes on the move.

The Finnish handset manufacturer, which supplies four out of every 10 phones sold, has created a series of 96-second programmes.

Six new programmes – on motoring, fashion, gadgets, comedy, culture and homes – will launch on October 1 and are designed to show off the multimedia capabilities of Nokia's new N96 handset.

Nokia announced a tie-up with the BBC that would allow N96 users to access its popular iPlayer 7-day catchup service. Previously, Apple's iPhone was the only mobile compatible with iPlayer. Ainslie said the initiative was not intended to signal a major move into commissioning.

One would assume that this channel would also be available on the old Nokia N77.

The 16 French broadcasters that were awarded a mobile TV licence have entered into talks with Orange and other mobile operators about the service’s business plan. So far, the introduction of what the French call TMP (Television Mobile Personnelle), is not moving forward according to the original plan.

The broadcasters are concerned about the business plan and expect the mobile operators to pay a fee per subscribers to them. Earlier this month at a meeting with the media authority CSA they reiterated their confidence in the future of the mobile TV and the DVB-H standard.

Three mobile TV licenses for the territory will be put up for auction in mid 2009, according to Hong Kong's Commerce & Economic Development Bureau.

The licenses, valid for 15 years, will allow operators to broadcast up to 20 channels via the European Union-endorsed DVB-H standard, and 6 channels through the Korean T-DMB standard.

License holders are required to start broadcasting within 18 months from the conclusion of the auction, with mobile TV services expected to begin by 2010, according to the Bureau.

"Mobile TV exemplifies the technological advancement and media convergence," said Duncan Pescod, permanent secretary for Commerce and Economic Development. "The market world wide has called for timely response from governments and regulators to facilitate the launch and growth of this innovative service."

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