Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mobile Television Coming To A Cell Phone Near You

TV on mobile phones is coming...and it's going to be big.

If you haven't yet noticed mobile television is rapidly becoming a reality encompassing the Internet, traditional TV and the new grassroots revolution taking place across all media.

Photo credit: M√°rcia Grilo

Colonized in its early stages by the large funding provided by traditional telcos or by partnerships with traditional media houses, the first mobile television services are already counting some millions subscribers when you add to the US, the fast growing adoption rate of mobile TV services in Asian countries like Korea, Japan and even China.

The disruptive marketing potential of accessing video through mobile devices can be largely underestimated for lack of previous historical or cultural parallels.

Not only.

The emerging grassroots production and distribution of highly personalized, niche content will likely deliver some quite tangible blow to traditional TV networks dominance as the most popular media source watched on video.



Mobile television is now available on mobile phones in the US and test marketing is being conducted on the viability of the technology worldwide.

So while still in its infancy, TV could indeed soon become an integral part of your mobile phone experience.

Service providers are currently testing various content-delivery styles (broadcast or on-demand), and there are many start-ups already working around new ideas on how leveraging grassroots originated or aggregated content to carry some commercial value for all parties involved.

As Java, Flash and other multimedia mobile operating platforms are now well established, and as 3G and 4G mobile networks make their inroads into Europe, Asia and the US, using your mobile to watch live events, news information or old-time home recordings uploaded to your online infinite personal storage space, are more than likely to happen.

According to an article on, Clay Owen, a spokesperson for Cingular, an American cellular service provider already offering TV in select markets, said "TV on the cell phone is OK now, but it's going to get dramatically better later this year when the networks are upgraded."

There are also many technical and "political" challenges being faced by those companies most interested in making mobile television a reality.

One of the issues slowing down the rapid evolution of this new emerging marketplace are the multiple alternative technology platforms and standards fighting for becoming the preferred choice of mobile phone makers as well as the industry standard.

Currently, it's a battle of acronyms, with DVB-H, T-DMB, and MediaFLO plus a few others dipping their feet into the unexplored waters of video streaming and real-time delivery over mobile telephone networks.

DVB-H, or digital video broadcast-handset, works by simultaneously sending a signal to multiple users with a digital TV receiver attached to their cell phone. Users find programs via an on-screen guide, select the program to watch and view it when it is broadcast by the provider.

Its main competitor may be Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology, which could delivers content more cost-effectively, using multicasting technology to broadcast to many users over the bandwidth required for a single UHF TV channel.

Another potential technology is the DMB (Digital Media Broadcasting), which has had some success in Asia. Also known as DMB-T, Digital Media Broadcasting - Terrestrial, is the youngest major broadcast standard and provides the best reception quality for the power required. It evolved from the European Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standard, which was widely supported by Korean chip makers.

Initial trials in Helsinki, Finland showed already 41% of all users testing the DVB-H technology would pay for the service, while in the US several companies are already having success beaming TV signals to mobile phones through theSprint, Verizon and Cingular mobile phone networks.

Just last week, MobiTV, the first company to work in cellular TV in the US, received an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development." The award came to MobiTV after just two years of providing their service, which now reaches over 500,000 mobile TV phone subscriberswho are able to watch ABC News Now, MSNBC, The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, ESPN and more of the traditional media mix over their mobile phones.

If half a million people are already willing to subscribe to a service whose technology and overall content offering is still maturing, one can only imagine what success it may reach once the technology gets widely adopted.

Success like that is pretty indicative of where and how solidly the future of mobile television is going to be. So if you haven't started to pay attention to this new media universe, and to the opportunities it opens up, it's about time you do.

Add wi-fi, or basic phone-based capabilities to the new video iPod and there you have the perfect killer media device for some time to come.

Robin Good and Kevin C. Borgia -
Readers' Comments    
2005-10-19 17:13:47



I agree that mobile TV will one day be significant, but the marketers are far too optimistic about its growth - and these guys are well-known for getting their predictions completely wrong. We've been told for years that multimedia on phones is the "next big thing", but growth hasn't been spectacular yet. Meanwhile, text messaging has been incredibly popular - virtually no-one foresaw how significant it would be.

As it turns out, people use their phones to communicate, so any new technology on the cellphone should aid communication, not just display mass-produced content.

posted by on Wednesday, October 19 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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