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Home > Business > Special

TV on your mobile. Soon

Priyanka Joshi | May 06, 2006

Sheila Shantaram, a jet-setter, spends considerable time and money hunting for web-episodes or DVDs of shows she missed watching abroad.

If she were in Japan or Korea, all she would need to do is flick open her mobile and watch her favourite serials while on the move - albeit in their respective local languages. For a similar experience in India, she would have to wait for another two years or may be even longer.

Mobile TV is a wildfire waiting to happen. Eight million mobile TV-enabled handsets are projected to be sold in 2006 the world over, rising to 120 million by 2010.

"Just because we don't see it or think we will not use it, does not mean it will not be successful," says Juha Lipiainen, director (system marketing & offering management), Nokia.

Countries such as Japan and Korea have leapfrogged in this sphere. Millions of Japanese and Koreans enjoy the benefits of television on the move. The existing Korean 3G network is fast enough to stream live television.

"May be it will have technical faults on its launch (in India), but there are always preliminary nuisances and in time this technology will become ubiquitous," foresees Nikil Jain, chief technology advisor, Qualcomm.

There may be a need to support several formats in the mobile TV market. At present, there are three basic formats vying for dominance in mobile TV.

The DMB; digital video broadcast-handheld (DVB-H) - a mobile version of terrestrial digital TV standard; and MediaFLO - a proprietary format developed by Qualcomm. With an estimated 50.97 million DVB-H devices projected to be sold by 2010 globally, it means a lot for Nokia, which supports this format.

The number of mobile users in India is attractive. Don Price, chief technology officer, Airtel says, "The growth potential is boundless, with semi-urban and rural markets still to be penetrated. It's practically a gold mine out there."

On the content front, no one knows for sure what type of programmes viewers really want to watch or how long they will spend on the smaller screens.

Rajeev Hiranandani, CEO, Mobile2Win's estimates, "In a mobile environment it won't be plain old television, it will be high priority content that would rule."

Therefore, if subscriber's penchant is towards sports, music, or anything that he would probably not want to wait for, then mobile TV should be the answer.

As for the price, players are evaluating options such as pay per view, pay on demand, differential rates between base and premium content, bouquet and bundle-based discounts and different peak and valley (based on mobile traffic) rates.

The business model is expected to be on a revenue-sharing basis between the operator and content provider.

"Customer pricing will have to be simple. A flat fee might be a good starting point and can move into an usage-based model as the market matures," is how Airtel sees it. "Advertising opportunity will also play a critical role in framing a fruitful business model," says Hiranandani.

Meanwhile, the regulatory framework needs to be put in place, especially for terrestrial private players, broadcasting licences and copyright management.

The wishlist also includes protection of interests of the stakeholders involved and harmony between current delivery mechanisms such as cable TV and DTH.

"Service providers should be allocated adequate spectrum, may be even dedicated carrier for data services which will be further limited only to television and video service delivery," asserts Swami Krishnan, chief marketing officer, Sasken Communication Technologies.

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