Monday, December 11, 2006

Korean S-DMB Subscribers Near 1M

According to an article published in techworld, Korean's S-DMB service has signed up 950,000 subscribers so far. This figure was quoted by Young-Kil Suh, president and CEO of TU-Media, the SKT subsidiary which operates Korea's satellite mobile TV service. Mr. Kuh also claims that the average TV viewing time per subscriber is 62 minutes per day. This is well above the numbers witnessed in mobile broadcast TV trials around the world, which typically amount to 15-20 minutes a day. Commercial cellular TV services in Europe have reported much lower viewing times, of 2-3 minutes per day. This figure was quoted in an article in The Register, titled "Telefonica admits customers don't understand mobile TV".

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Russian Commercial DVB-H Service expected in 2008

According to a source quoted by Cellular News, Sistema Mass Media subsidiary Digital Television Broadcasting is acquiring mobile TV frequencies in 16 Russian cities, and plans to launch a commercial service in 2008, in time for the Beijing Olympic Games. It is not clear accoridng to the report whether this will be a DVB-H or T-DMB service, but the service will be launched in collaboration with SK Mobile of Korea T-Systems from Germany. The service will initially include eight channels, and will cost between $5 to $15 a month. By 2010, the company plans to have over 500,000 subscribers.

Samsung SGH-P930: New DVB-H Handset for the Italian Market

Cellular News reports that Samsung has released a new mobile TV handset named SGH-P930, which will be used in the DVB-H service offered by Telecom Italia and Mediaset. The phone includes HSDPA cellular connectivity, a 2.3 inch LCD display with a resolution of 240x320 pixels, and it supports Picture in Picture (PIP) for viewing two mobile TV channels simultaneously.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Verizon and Sprint MediaFLO Services Powered by Samsung Handsets

Engadget has spotted two Samsung handsets which will be used in commercial MediaFLO mobile TV services in the US. The Samsung U620 will be used for Verizon's VCAST mobile TV service, while the Samsung M250 is already powering Sprint's trial of the competing VUE mobile TV service in Kansas City and Las Vegas.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Study: Virgin DAB-IP Mobile TV Beats Vodafone 3G TV service

A new study published by Strategy Analytics found that users preferred Virgin's Mobile TV service based on DAB-IP technology, to Vodafone's cellular TV service. The study found a large preference to DAB-IP in perceived network performance and usability, but only a slight advantage in audiovisual quality and content. In the overall rating, Virgin's service received 70 points, while the Vodafone service was awarded 50 points.

Another study by Startegy Analytics found that the "Tua" DVB-H mobile TV service by 3 Italy was the easiest to buy and the best to use, beating TIM Italy's DVB-H service and Vodafone's UMTS mobile TV service.

SlingMedia Available on 3 UK Phones

SlingMedia, which developed the Slingbox device for broadcasting TV content from the user's home over the Internet, announced a partnership with 3 UK which will enable subscribers to watch their own TV channels from home on their cellular phones. The service will be available to customers who purchase both an X-series handset (either the Nokia N73 or the Sony Ericsson W950i) and a Slingbox. The service is unique in that it offers the first implementation of the SlingPlayer on a non-Windows platform, and is currently exclusive to 3 UK X-series customers.

The announcement did not mention specific pricing for the service, but the offical press release states that all X-services will be available for a fixed fee on top of the basic subscribtion fee, and that additional access fees will be charged the Sling service. It is interesting to note that owners of Windows Mobile smartphones and PDAs can purchase the SlingPlayer application and enjoy the service for free (excluding 3G data charges), regardless of their wireless carrier. This could become a threat to paid cellular TV services, and to mobile broadcast TV services as well: If users can watch their own favorite TV channels from home on their cellular phones, why would they subscribe to a paid service that provides the same content?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

DVB-H Mobile TV Service Launched in Vietnam

The world's second commercial DVB-H service was launched last week in Vietnam by VTC Mobile. It is the world's first commercial mobile TV service to use the Nokia N92 handset, and offers viewers eight TV channels and four radio channels. VTC Mobile plans to charge a monthly fee of VND90,000 ($5.60) for the service, and an additional VND2,000 ($0.12) per day for content that is produced specifically for mobile phones.

Friday, October 27, 2006

BBC and SKY Lead UK Mobile TV Rating Chart

A new research published by Telephia found that 33% of mobile TV viewers in the UK watch BBC 1, 29% watch Sky Sports, and 24% watch the Discovery Channel. Next on the list are BBC 2, BBC 3, BBC 4 and ITV 1 with 22% each. However, overall penetration of mobile TV services in the UK remains low: According to Telephia, only 3% of all mobile subscribers in the UK watch mobile TV or video content.

UPDATE: The Inquirer posted an item titled "Telephia's mobile TV research begs channel questions", claiming that BBC1 is only available on Virgin's DAB-IP service which still has very limited adoption, and BBC2, BBC and BBC4 are not available at all on mobile phones. Telephia posted a clarification on their website, stating that their statistics include all TV delivery formats, including live streaming, on-demand streaming and downloaded video clips.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Mobile TV Handsets

According to a new report by ABI Research, penetration of mobile TV handsets in Japan and Korea is increasing, with over 14% of Korean handsets already supporting mobile broadcast TV. In the past two weeks, we have witnessed a flood of mobile TV device announcements originating in South East Asia. Here are some examples:
  • LG launched a slim mobile TV phone, less than 11 mm thick.
  • Samsung announced two "ultra-slim" mobile TV handsets, the SCH-B510 which supports S-DMB and the SPH-B5100 which supports T-DMB.
  • Samsung also announced the SCH-B560, a rotating-screen T-DMB handset.
  • The SCH-B600, Samsung's new 10-Megapixel camera phone, includes an S-DMB receiver.
  • Motorola announced a satellite DMB phone for the Korean market called "Moto View".
  • Taiwanese handset vendor Gigabyte announced the GSmart i200 handset, a DVB-H device running Windows Mobile 5.0, and featuring a VGA display. The handset includes a mobile TV receiver chip by Siano Mobile Silicon, and DVB-H client software by Panthera.
  • Another handset powered by the Siano receiver was unveiled by by Chinese ODM TechFaith Wireless. The handset is a dual-mode mobile TV phone, supporting T-DMB, DAB-IP and DVB-H.

Other recent announcements of mobile TV devices include a navigator and a PDA by LG, and a PMP by Korean vendor Yukyung Technology.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mobile TV Interoperability Problems

A very good article published yesterday by the EE Times discusses the current issues which are holding back global deployments of mobile TV, in particular those based on the DVB-H standard. Fragmentation in the media codecs, electronic service guide and service protection mechanisms are the main problems, causing the industry to speed up the creation of interoperability guidelines and certification mechanisms.

Monday, September 11, 2006

BT Movio and Virgin Mobile Launch DAB-IP Commercial Mobile TV Service in the UK

BT Movio will launch the world's first mobile TV service based on the DAB-IP standard on October 1st, 2006. Virgin Mobile will be the first retail provider of the service, but others are expected to follow. The service will offer 4 TV stations - BBC One, ITV1, Channel 4 and E4, and 30-50 UK DAB radio stations. The service is supported by the Virgin Mobile Lobster 700TV phone (previously code-named "Trilogy"), which is designed and manufactured by HTC. The phone cost £199, and the service cost is £5 a month following a 3-month free trial period.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mobile TV Market Forecast Roundup - Take 2

A few months ago, I posted an item which summarized the results of several mobile TV market research reports. In the past few weeks, we have been flooded again by numerous market research reports describing the current status and the future prospects of Mobile TV. And yet again, the numbers and opinions are highly varied, ranging from total lack of interest in this service to full-blown, mass-market user adoption.

Most optimistic of all is IMS Research, which forecasted that 446 million people will be watching TV on their cell phones by 2011. This forecast was characterized by Digital-Lifestyles as over-optimistic, in their post "446m Mobile Phones TV User By 2011? We Consider", and was also challenged by TelecomWeb's Wireless Business Forecast, with the headline "446M Mobile-TV Viewers By 2011: Who Makes These Numbers?". Juniper Research also joined the optimistic camp, forecasting $11.7B worldwide revenues for Mobile TV, lead by the US and Japan.

On the more pessimistic side, a poll by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg found that only 14% of young adults and teenagers in the US were interested in watching TV on their cellular phones. This directly contradicts a recent market research by Quaestor, which found that 87% of 10-12 year old children in the UK would like to watch TV on their cellular phones - is the cultural difference that big?

Still in the UK, Paul Trotter posted a column in PC Pro stating "Mobile TV is heading for a fall". IDC is somewhere in the middle: On one hand, it issued a press release titled "No Clear Demand for Mobile TV in Western Europe", and on the other hand a Cellular News item titled "Substantial Market Expansion for Mobile TV Services" quotes IDC's forecast for 24M mobile TV and video users in the USA by 2010, up from 7M this year.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

DVB-H Reception Poor in Germany, Good in Italy

In two articles published by EETimes, the quality of DVB-H broadcasts from the world cup were evaluated. The first article discusses the personal experience of the reporter using an HTC PDA with a DVB-H SD receiver card powered by Philips Semiconductor. The reporter describes a disappointing user experience which includes jerky pictures, dropped frames and frozen images when trying to watch the T-Systems DVB-H trial broadcast in the Berlin world cup stadium. Only towards the end of the article we discover what is probably the real reason for this poor performance: "Admittedly, the handset and DVB-H receiver/demodulation chip I used weren't among the official devices currently being used in the German DVB-H trials". The importance of interoperability testing...

The second article provides a second-hand report of DVB-H reception in Europe's first commercial DVB-H service launched by 3 in Italy. The tests, performed by French DVB-H receiver vendor DibCom using the LG U900 and Samsung P910 handsets, found excellent signal reception around Rome and Milan, even while driving at 160 Kilometers per hour. However, the service suffers from a 15-second initialization time, and a 6-second channel switch time, which DibCom executives refer to as "acceptable"...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mobile TV Chipset Prices Fall Below $10

According to a new market research report published by ABI Research, the price of Mobile TV chipsets from several vendors has fallen below the $10 price point, enabling the technology to gain serious traction in the high-end and smart phone handset segments by early 2007. ABI Research expect the price to fall below $5 in the next few years, enabling mass market adoption of the technology following its integration in mid-tier handsets. According to the report, the major handset semiconductor vendors such as TI, Freescale and Analog devices have the full handset system knowledge which is required for integrating the mobile TV function, while newcomers such as DibCom, Frontier Silicon and Siano Mobile have the advantage of focusing exclusively mobile TV technologies. Siano Mobile recently announced a joint reference design with Intel for mobile TV enabled 3G handsets, using the Xscale-based "Mohanas" application processor.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

DVB-H and T-DMB Chip Vendors Reach One Million Mark

In two separate announcements this week, DibCom claimed that it had shipped over 1 million DVB-H chips, and Frontier Silicon announced shipment of 1 million T-DMB chips. The chips are powering handsets by Samsung and LG used in the initial launches of T-DMB in Korea, Germany and China, and DVB-H in Italy and Finland. This significant milestone marks the beginning of the early market phase for Mobile TV adoption, which according to several industry estimates is expected to reach over 1 million subscribers this year, and over 100 million subscribers by 2010.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

BBC and ITV Launch Mobile TV Trial in the UK

tThe Observer posted an exclusive report today claiming that BBC and ITV will join forces in a six month mobile broadcast TV trial which will be held in the UK, based on DAB technology. The observer claims that the companies will announce the trial tomorrow, in conjunction with several partners including Samsung, LG, MTV and Cartoon Network. The report does not state whether the trial is based on the T-DMB technology, which is used in MFD's commercial mobile TV service in Germany, or DAB-IP technology, which was used in the trial held earlier this year in the UK by BT Movio and Virgin Mobile.

Germany Launches Two Mobile TV Networks

Days before the FIFA World Cup, Germany has launched two separate mobile broadcast TV networks that will offer content from the games as well as other TV and radio channels.

The first service is based on T-DMB technology, and was launched by mobile operator Debitel and broadcast service provider MFD. The service will use the Samsung SGH-P900 and LG-V9000 handsets, and will be available initially in 5 German cities: Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt. Later this month, the service will spread to more cities including Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg and Hanover. At launch, 4 TV channels will be available: ZDF, MTV, N24 and a channel produced by PRO7. The monthly fee which Debitel plans to charge for this service is 9.95 Euros.

The second service, still in a trial stage, is based on DVB-H technology, and was launched by Germany's four major mobile operators: T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2 and E-Plus. The trial is being held in Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Hanover, and will continue until the end of August. The content for the trial includes two national TV channels, ARD and ZDF, and 16 radio channels.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Highlights of the IMA Mobile TV Conference

The Israeli Mobile Association (IMA) held a conference yesterday dedicated to the topic of Mobile TV technologies and services. The conference featured an impressive array of speakers from technology companies and mobile operators in Israel and abroad, who provided useful insights into the current mobile TV market. Below are some highlights from the conference.

Martin Richartz, Senior Technology Manager at Vodafone Group R&D, described the "mobile broadcast TV showdown" which will take place in Germany during the FIFA world cup next month. The games will be broadcast using a DVB-H network, operated by a consortium of all 4 German MNOs, and using a T-DMB network, operated by German start-up MFD. Mr Richartz urged the industry to converge on a bearer-agnostic IP service layer, which will ride on top of MBMS, DVB-H and eDAB, and enable service providers and content creators to roll out global services.

Guy Bauman, VP Business Development at Pelephone, gave an operator's view on mobile TV services. He described the Pelephone Zoom TV portal, which mixes video download, on-demand streaming and 21 live TV channels. Pelphone has found that prime time distribution in cellular TV is similar to regular TV, and that most users prefer music (31%), entertainment (29%), sports (11%) and news (10%).

Raimo Malila of Nokia Multimedia discussed the current fragmentation within the DVB-H standard between the DVB-CBMS and the OMA BCAST working group, especially on the issues of Electronic Service Guide (ESG) and content protection (conditional access and DRM).
Mr. Malila also described the possible business models for mobile broadcast TV, which are likely to be lead either by the broadcasters or the mobile operators. At the end of his speech, Mr. Malila presented a business case study for the roll out of a DVB-H network in Israel, claiming that the build-out cost to cover 95% of the population with in-door reception within 3 years would be 12.5M Euros, and the annual operating cost would be about 2-3M Euros per year.

Menno Bangma, Multimedia Services Consultant at TNO, described interative mobile services as a way to "push the portal" to the end-user, since they enable cross selling of content while watching TV, and create attractive opportunities for advertisers, such as impulse response, user feedback and user profile.

The conference concluded with an interesting panel session which gave some insights into the current challenges and roadmap for mobile TV services. The panel mentioned the following main constraints for the roll out of mobile TV services:
* Regulation and frequency aspects
* Standards fragmentation
* Echosystem (business model)
* Cheap terminals and multi-standard terminals (although there is a trade off between the two)

When asked about the best case scenario for mobile TV adoption, most panel participants replied that initial commercial services will be available within 18 months, and mass-market adoption is expected around 2008-2009.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Qualcomm Introduces Multi-Standard Mobile TV Receiver

Qualcomm announced today that it is developing a mobile broadcast TV receiver chip that will support DVB-H, ISDB-T and MediaFlo. Samples of the chip, called UBM (Universal Broadcast Modem), will be available in the first quarter of 2007.

This is the first announcement of a mobile TV receiver chip that will support 3 completely different standards. Siano Mobile Silicon announced yesterday at Computex Taiwan that its SMS1000 mobile TV receiver chipset is the world's first solution which supports DVB-T, DVB-H, T-DMB and DAB-IP, and is already in production. Frontier Silicon, which currently has DAB and T-DMB chips available, announced that its Paradiso FS1030 chip will support both T-DMB and DVB-H, but did not announce when it will be available. TI, on the other hand, has two separate versions of its Hollywood mobile TV receiver: DTV 1000 for DVB-H, and DTV 1001 for ISDB-T.

The variety of standards for mobile TV seems like a market reality, with no clear winner in the next few years. While some standards are geographically focused (such as ISDB-T in Japan and S-DMB in Korea), others will be implemented globably, and in some cases two or more standards will be implemented in a single country. For example, the UK will have both DAB-IP and DVB-H, Germany will have both DVB-H and T-DMB, and the USA will have both DVB-H and MediaFlo. The global fragmentation of mobile TV standards will ultimately lead to strong demand for multi-standard mobile TV receiver chipsets.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

First MediaFlo Trial in Europe

UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB announced yesterday that it plans to evaluate Qulacomm's MediaFlo mobile TV technology in a trial that will take place later this year in the UK. The trial will be conducted in the Cambridge area using the UHF spectrum, and will feature 10 TV channels which will be received by about 100 form-factor mobile handsets supplied by Qualcomm.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Feedback on the Mobile TV Blog

I would be happy to hear from you any comments, questions and thoughts regarding this blog or mobile TV topics in general. You can either send me an email or post a comment to the blog itself. My email address is my first name at gamdala.com

Bye,

Dror.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

HiWire To Offer Commercial DVB-H Service in the US

HiWire, a new subsidiary of Aloha Networks, announced yesterday that it plans to offer a commercial mobile TV service using DVB-H technology in the US. HiWire plans to use the 700 MHz spectrum acquired by its parent company in the last few years (UHF channels 54 and 59), which covers 60% of the US population. HiWire will compete with Crown Castle's Modeo, which plans to offer nationwide DVB-H services in the L-band 1700 MHz spectrum, and with Qualcomm's MediaFlo, which will also offer mobile TV services in the 700 MHz spectrum using its own technology.

HiWire is partnering with satellite services provider SES AMERICOM, who will provide the satellite and distribution platforms for the service. The two companies plan a trial in the Las Vegas area later this year.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mobile TV Chip Roundup

The CTIA Wireless show this week has prompted a series of announcements regarding mobile TV products, including several updates on the chip front. TI has demonstrated their "Holywood" DTV-1000 single-chip demodulator/tuner on Modeo's DVB-H network, coupled with the OMAP 2420 application processor running PacketVideo's Windows Media codecs and DRM, and S3's DVB-H protocol stack. Philips introduced the rival BGT216 DVB-H module, which measures just 7x7 mm and will be available in early 2007. ADI announced a few T-DMB design wins in Korea, running the T-DMB demodulation processing on a Blackfin DSP. And mobile TV chip vendor Siano Mobile Silicon announced the completion of its $23M financing round, lead by Bessemer Venture Partners .

Modeo Demonstrates Custom DVB-H Handset at CTIA Wireless

US mobile TV service provider Modeo is demonstrating its DVB-H technology at CTIA Wireless this week using a Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone, which was custom-designed for the company by Taiwanese ODM HTC. The handset includes a TI OMAP 850 integrated baseband/application processor, an NVIDIA Go-Force 5500 multimedia and graphics processor, a DibCom DVB-H demodulator and a Microtune MT220 DVB-H tuner. The handset receives DVB-H broadcasts using the Windows Media Video and Windows Media Audio codecs, and utilizes Microsoft's DRM.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Japan Launches Commercial Mobile TV Service

As promised, Japan has launched its commercial mobile TV service on April 1st, using the local ISDB-T technology. The mobile TV service is called "OneSeg", since it uses one segment out of the 13 available segments in the ISDB-T terrestrial digital TV services in Japan. Initially the broadcast is identical to the regular analog TV broadcast, and is offered for free, but the operators plan to expand it in the future with mobile-specific content and interactive services.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Live Mobile TV vs. Video Clip Push

Despite all the buzz surrounding mobile broadcast TV services such as DVB-H, T-DMB and MediaFlo, there is still a basic question that remains unanswered: Will users be willing to pay a monthly service fee to access live broadcast TV content on the go, when they are already used to on-demand access to video content using PVRs, cable TV VOD services, and the Internet? Mobile broadcast TV seems to be a step back in the direction of scheduled programming, in which the viewing time of each show is fixed, and not adapted to the user's own schedule. Since market research has shown that mobile consumption of video content is typically done in a "snacking" mode, each time the user has a few minutes to spare and wants to "kill time", the user might prefer to have video clips that interest him pre-downloaded to his handset, so he can watch them during these periods, rather than spend some of that precious time searching for something interesting to watch on the live broadcast TV channels.

As I mentioned in a previous post, two possibilities for watching TV programs on the mobile device when you want them are using a built in Personal Video Recorder (PVR) in the mobile TV handset, or using the filecasting service which is part of DVB-H and MediaFlo, and enables video clips to be "pushed" to the end user for offline viewing. Bamboo MediaCasting is offering another solution, which enables users to subscribe to video clip channels according to their preferences. These clips are "pushed" to the user over current mobile data networks such as GPRS, EDGE and UMTS in offline, and a smart client on the handset manages the required storage and the displays the clips. This enables operators to launch a service which is similar to the DVB-H "filecasting" service today, using their existing cellular networks and existing handsets. One of the advantages of the "managed push" service over streaming or user-initiated download is that the operator can control when to push the content to the handset - such push can occur, for example, during off-peak hours to balance the congestion on their network and reduce the cost of delivery. Nokia is offering a similar service called Nokia Media Charger, but it is only available on Nokia handsets.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Finland Awards Commercial DVB-H License

News published by Reuters yesterday confirms that the Finnish Ministry of communication has chosen Digita, a unit of French media group TDF, to provide commercial mobile broadcast TV to subscribers in Finland using DVB-H technology. Digita beat TeliaSonera and Elisa, Finland's two leading cellular operators, in this bid, and will hold the license for 20 years. Digita plans to start the commercial DVB-H service and cover 30% of the Finnish population by year end. The company also plans to sell network capacity to other service operators, as required under the terms of the license.

Mobile TV Market Forecast Roundup

This week was characterized by numerous mobile TV market research reports pouring in, each providing their own take on the current and forecasted market size. Unfortunately, the market research firms still don't provide a clear definition of what they include in their mobile TV forecasts: Is it just broadcast mobile TV using DVB-H, T-DMB, ISDB-T or MediaFlo, or do the numbers also include TV steaming over cellular networks, TV episode downloads, etc. Anyway, you can be the judge of the figures below.

First are the highlights of an upcoming Telephia market research report on mobile TV and video, which were published by cellular news this week. According to Telephia's report, 3 million wireless subscribers in the USA (about 1.5% of the total subscribers) viewed TV or video content on their mobile devices in Q4 2005. The report also found that the ARPU for these subscribers is $94, $40 higher than the ARPU of all American subscribers which is $54. While these results seem quite promising, the report also found that the increase in mobile TV and video penetration from Q1 2005 to Q4 2005 was only 0.1%.

eMarketer is also on the positive side this week, announcing their new report titled "Mobile TV for Marketers: Monetizing the Smallest Screen". According to eMarketer, the number of 3G subscribers who watch broadcast TV on their phones will rise from 4.2 million this year to 13.9 million next year, eventually reaching over 100 million subscribers by 2009.

UK Business Intelligence firm Datamonitor took a more conservative view on the mobile broadcast TV market. In a report published this week, Datamonitor claims that the growth of the mobile broadcast TV market will be limited by several issues, including spectrum allocation, expensive handsets, standards fragmentation and the competition with 3G video services. Nevertheless, Datamonitor still predicts that 69 million subscribers to mobile broadcast TV services in 2009.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mobile TV Device Update

A lot of news coming in on mobile TV handsets in the last few days, mainly due to the CeBIT 2006 exhibition which opens today. EE Times reports that Kitae Lee, president of Samsung Telecommunications, opened CeBIT today with a prediction that the global mobile TV handset market will reach about 6 million units this year, and that Samsung plans to grab 20% of this market.

Samsung is also showing an "Ultra-Mobile PC" (UMPC) device at the show, the type of device that caught the industry's attention in the last few weeks under the code name "Origami". According to a report by Engadget, Samsung's device will have an optional DMB (and eventually DVB-H) expansion module.

LG announced their first commercial T-DMB phone for Europe, which will be released first in Germany during May of this year. The device features a rotating 2.2" LCD screen, and claims a 3 hour battery life while viewing TV broadcasts. Two other mobile TV handsets which will be shown at CeBIT are the Sagem myMobileTV and the BenQ DVB-H phone.

Monday, March 06, 2006

China Mobile TV Forecast from In-Stat

In-Stat issued a press release today with some figures from its market research report on the Chinese mobile TV market. According to In-Stat, there will be 94 million mobile TV subscribers in China by 2009, with DVB-H being the dominant technology. This growth will be the result of the Chinese government push for widespread mobile TV availability for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

There have been numerous mobile TV forecasts in the past few months (see for example my post on a recent Northern Research forecast), but unfortunately the market analysts fail to define, in most cases, what they mean by mobile TV. Mobile TV could be defined as mobile broadcast TV services only (DVB-H, T-DMB, ISDB-T, etc.); it can include TV broadcasts on cellular networks (unicast and/or MBMS), and it can also include video clip download of TV shows, either over cellular networks or originating from a PC synchronization. Therefore, in order to enable comparison of different published forecasts, it is important that information distributed by the analysts will include their definition of the mobile TV market scope.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mobile TV Predications from Modeo CEO

CommsDesign published an article yesterday quoting a speech by Michael Schueppert, president of Modeo, at the DVB World Forum in Dublin (Modeo is the Crown Castle subsidiary which is deploying a DVB-H network in the USA). Schueppert makes some interesting predictions on the future of mobile TV, such as:
* In 3 years, the global Mobile TV market will be worth $3B
* Only half of the viewers will use cellular phones to access the service
* DVB-H and MediaFlo will succeed, but T-DMB will eventually fail
* Two media formats will coexist in mobile TV: H.264/AAC, and Microsoft WMA/WMV
* Voting in TV shows will be the most powerful interactive feature of mobile TV

Nokia, Canal+ and SFR Publish Results of Paris DVB-H Trial

The results of a DVB-H trial held in Paris since last September were published by Nokia this week. The trial showed that 73% of users were satisfied with the service, and 68% were willing to subscribe to the service for 7 Euros a month. Average usage was 20 minutes per day, mainly at home but also when traveling and at work. News, music, entertainment and sports were the most popular content types viewed in this trial.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Place Shifting" as an Alternative to Mobile TV

One of the alternatives to "official" mobile TV services offered by cellular network operators or by mobile broadcast network operators such as DVB-H, T-DMB and MediaFlo, is to access the user's home TV channels using a mobile device. Companies such as SlingMedia and Orb Networks offer transmitter devices (or PC software) which connect to the user's home TV or set-top box, and transmit the TV content over the Internet. The content can then be viewed from a PC or laptop connected to the Internet anywhere in the world, or from a mobile device such as a PDA or cellphone. This enables users to enjoy their home TV channels wherever they are, without paying a subscription fee for the service (except Internet access fees).

A recent article published in Forbes suggests that operators aren't fond of this idea, since it competes with their own subscription-based mobile TV services, and they may block place-shifted TV packets on their networks in the future. This has caused a major debate on the TechDirt website.

Some operators do not see these services as a competition, but as revenue opportunities. Last year, Sprint embraced place shifting technology when it announced a collaboration with Orb Networks under the Sprint Personal Media Link brand, which enables Sprint broadband customers to access their PC media files from anywhere on the Internet. However, the collbaration does not apply yet to access from Sprint's cellular network.

Another aspect that should be considered is the legal implications of place shifting technologies from the content owners' point of view. While home viewing of cable and satellite TV is protected by strong encryption technologies using conditional access cards, the streaming of these programs over the open Internet by the place shifting technologies is only protected by a user name and password. In some cases, this may violate the user's service agreement with his TV provider. An in-depth discussion of this issue appears in RedOrbit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Qualcomm Developing DVB-H Chips

According to a report by Reuters, Qualcomm is developing mobile TV receiver chips which support the DVB-H standard, which directly competes with Qualcomm's own MediaFlo technology. Qualcomm's CEO Paul Jacobs said in a Reuters technology conference on Monday that "it would be in Qualcomm's interest to make chips for DVB-H ... because the success of this standard could boost the uptake of wireless TV in general".

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

3 Italy to Launch Commercial DVB-H Service

3 Italy announced that it plans to launch a commercial DVB-H service called La3 in Italy this June, coinciding with the launch of the FIFA World Cup, for which 3 has secured exclusive broadcast rights in Italy. The service will include 15 channels at launch, and will be expanded in the future to 40 channels. The service will initially be available the LG U900 and Samsung Stealth mobile handsets.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Nokia and Telefonica Publish Results of Spanish DVB-H Trial

The results of a DVB-H trial held in Barcelona and Madrid last September were published today by Nokia, Telef√≥nica M√≥viles and Abertis Telecom. The trial showed that 75% of users are willing to recommend the service to their friends, but only 55% of users are willing to pay for the service, up to 5 Euros per month. These are figures are quite disappointing, compared to the T-DMB trial by BT and Virgin which showed that most users were willing to pay up to £5 (7.3 Euros) a month for the service, and the DVB-H trial in Helsinki which showed users were willing to pay up to 10 Euros per month for the service.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

3GSM 2006 Mobile TV Update - Part 3

To round up our 3-part summary of mobile TV news at 3GSM, Strategy Analytics published a new market research report on the topic of mobile TV, predicting that revenues from TV phone sales will increase form $8B in 2006 to $30B in 2010. The report also forecasts that DVB-H will account for 19% of TV phones in 2006, rising to 40% of the total TV phone market in 2010.

Not only phones will be able to receive mobile TV broadcasts, but portable game consoles as well. In a press conference in Tokyo yesterday, Nintendo said they will offer a mobile TV receiver card for the Nintendo GameBoy DS. The receiver will be available in Japan only, and will support the mobile ISDB-T broadcasts which are scheduled to begin in April.

And back to the good old TV-over-cellular services: Alcatel announced that T-Mobile has selected its technology to provide interactive mobile TV services over EDGE and 3G in the UK, Germany and Austria. Alcatel will be responsible for aggregating the live TV content, producing the mobile-specific channels, and hosting the service platform for all three countries from its centre in Stuttgart, Germany.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

3GSM 2006 Mobile TV Update - Part 2

The stream of mobile TV announcements at 3GSM 2006 in Barcelona continues, with Nortel announcing its mobile TV solutions over HSDPA, MBMS and DVB-H networks. T-DMB keeps gaining momentum in Europe, with Samsung announcing that it is working with Bouygues Telecom, TF1 and VDL on a T-DMB trial in France that will start at the end of this month. Samsung is not betting on T-DMB alone: At 3GSM, Samsung is demonstrating 7 different Mobile TV handset models, supporting various combinations of T-DMB, S-DMB, DVB-H and MediaFlo. Samsung also surprised the mobile TV chip industry with an Announcement of its own DVB-H front-end solution, comprising of an RF CMOS tuner chip and a DVB-H Channel decoder which also support DVB-T.

While Samsung is a new player in DVB-H chips, DiBcom which is one of the more established players announced a joint reference design with NDS which implements Conditional Access for DVB-H receivers, complaint with the DVB CBMS standard. And still on the mobile TV chip front, Philips introduced the new version of their DVB-H receiver chip, which includes a tuner and a demodulator in a 7x7 mm package.

If we didn't have enough mobile TV standards already, Alcatel is proposing a combination of satellite-based and terrestrial-based DVB-H mobile TV broadcasting in the S-band, which is supposed to enable re-use of existing 3G base stations, and solve the frequency allocation problems of DVB-H in Europe. Interesting concept technically, but pulling together the whole value chain to support it (satellite operators, handset vendors, other network equipment vendors) will be quite difficult.

Stay tuned for more mobile TV news from 3GSM 2006...

3GSM 2006 Mobile TV Update - Part 1

Many sources have forecasted that mobile TV will be one of the hottest topics at 3GSM in Barcelona this year. And indeed, the show opened with some interesting news items. The first is a cooperation between Sony Ericsson and Nokia on DVB-H - the two companies announced that they cwill perform interoperability testing between Sony Ericsson's mobile handsets and Nokia's DVB-H network equipment.

The second item is the announcement by British Telecom, Virgin and Microsoft today regarding their plans to launch a commercial T-DMB service in the UK this year, following a successful trial. The big news is the addition of Microsoft to this party, since the company has so far been quite silent about its activities in the mobile broadcast TV market. The service was demonstrated at 3GSM on a mobile handset prototype designed by TTP and HTC. The design of the handset prototype, which runs Windows Mobile 5.0 and is powered by the NeoMagic MiMagic6+ multimedia processor, will also be licensed to other handset vendors.

I'll keep you updated on other Mobile TV news from 3GSM 2006 in Barcelona as it becomes available.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mobile TV Chip Market Heating Up

There is definitely increased activity in the market for chips that support the various mobile TV standards, with Frontier Silicon announcing its Kino-2 chip which supports T-DMB and DAB, and Newport Media raising $25M from investors to develop a mobile TV receiver that will support T-DMB, DVB-H, ISDB-T and MediaFlo. This follows two other annoucements this week: DibCom's chairman disclosing that Cingular is evaluating products based on its chip for use in the US market, and Microtune announcing that it is starting to ship a DVB-H tuner. Also check out the CommsDesign article published today which discusses the conformance of the various DVB-H chips to the MBRAI specs, and if you read hebrew, there were an article published in The Marker last week about DVB-H chip vendor Siano Mobile Silicon, including an interview with their CEO Alon Ironi.

Expect a lot more to come next week during 3GSM in Barcelona - I will keep you posted...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Interactive Mobile TV Doubles the Average Viewing Time

In a press release published by Ericsson yesterday, the company disclosed the results of a 9 week trial with NRK in Norway using interactive mobile TV over the cellular network. The trial showed that the average viewing time of interactive mobile TV users was 5 minutes per session, twice as much as regular mobile TV users. Interactivity in the trial included selecting the next music video to be shown, and chatting with a TV host and with other viewers.

Cingular Evaluating DVB-H

Cingular, the leading wireless carrier in the US, started to evaluate DVB-H products, which may be a sign that the company is contemplating launching a mobile TV service based on this standard in the future. In an interview published in the Red Herring yesterday, DiBCom Chairman Marco Landi said that Cingular is evaluating DiBCom's DVB-H chips in customer products, starting from PDAs and moving later to laptops and cellphones.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Samsung T-DMB Phone for Europe

Samsung has announced a T-DMB phone for Europe which will be launched in time for the FIFA world cup in Germany this June. The phone has an Electronic Program Guide (EPG), analog video output (TV out), and a built-in Personal Video Recorder (PVR) for recording mobile TV programs. The phone also features a 2 megapixel camera, MP3 player, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. According to an article published in the Korea Herald yesterday, Samsung will export its T-DMB phone to Germany from April of this year.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Mobile TV to reach 107 million subscribers by 2010

According to a new market research report published by Northern Sky Research , mobile TV is expected to grow significantly in the next few years, driven by the increased capacity of cellular networks, the decreasing price of video-enabled handsets, and the deployment of mobile broadcast networks. NSR predicts that by 2010, there will be 107 million subscribers to mobile TV worldwide using cellular, MBMS and mobile broadcast networks such as DVB-H, T-DMB and MediaFlo. The cellular networks will continue to dominate in the next few years, until the broadcast networks are fully deployed, and until reasonably priced handsets which support these networks become available.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

T-DMB Trial in India

Following the announcement regarding the launch of T-DMB services in China which was covered in a previous post, India now plans to hold a trial of T-DMB technology in Mumbai this month. The trial is conducted in collaboration with the Korean Information and Communication Ministry, which is pushing global adoption of T-DMB technology.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Commercial DVB-H Services for Finland

Sonera Mobile Networks, a subsidiary of TeliaSonera Finald, announced today that it has applied for a license to start commercial mobile TV services in the Helsinki area this year. The service will be based on DVB-H technology, and use TeliaSonera's cellular network as the back-channel for interactive services.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

ATI Announces DVB-H Chip

ATI has been offering 3D graphics and video chips for mobile devices for the past few years, and had some significant design wins with Motorola, Samsung, LG and Siemens/BenQ. ATI also licensed its mobile 3D graphics engine to Qualcomm, which integrated it into baseband chips. But now, the company is placing its bets on the mobile TV market. In an article published by CommsDesign yesterday, ATI stated: "We have been pushing 3-D for handsets, but it will take a while longer. Meanwhile, mobile TV seems to be moving ahead faster in cell phones".

In addition to upgrading its multimedia chip to support H.264 decoding at 30 frames per second, the company has also developed its own DVB-H demodulator. ATI claims that a 12 x 12-mm module which includes this demodulator and a 3rd-party tuner will consume 100 mW on average, and cost $10 in volume.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Blurring the Lines between Live and On-Demand Mobile TV

Last month, Vodafone launched its "Global Mobile TV" service, which offers live TV content to viewers in various markets. The service includes an interesting twist: Some of the channels are not regular live broadcast channels, but specially created "loop channels", which play the same content over and over again in a continuous loop. Quoting from the Vodafone press release:

"HBO will offer award-winning full-length programming, such as "Sex and the City", "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Six Feet Under". Programming will be adapted for various Vodafone markets and scheduled in 90 minute loops, 24 hours a day".

Since the transmission to the end user is unicast anyway, why is Vodafone offering such content through lopped live channels, rather than enabling users to access it on demand? I believe there are 3 answers to this question:

1) On-demand viewing of the clips requires the users to browse through several layers of WAP menus until they find and select the required clip to view. Using a TV-like channel, the viewing experience is more immediate, and resembles the experience of viewing the HBO channel on regular television.

2) To support on-demand viewing of clips, the operators need to install servers in their networks with enough capacity to support the number of simultaneous viewers who access on-demand content. Using loop channels, the server outputs a single media stream, which is distributed to the end users with a simple router, which is much cheaper. Therefore, it is more econonical for the mobile operator to package the content in a looped channel rather than on-demand clips.

3) Operators are preparing themselves for the launch of mobile broadcast networks such as DVB-H and T-DMB, which don't have the capability to provide content on-demand to each consumer. That's why they are starting to test the user response and business models of providing on-demand content as packaged loop channels today over cellular networks.

Looped broadcast channels is another example where the lines between broadcast and on-demand mobile video consumption are blurring, continuing the trend which I pointed in a previous post that discussed mobile PVRs and filecasting services.

Friday, January 27, 2006

News.com Article on Mobile TV

News.com published an article today called "Surveying the Mobile TV Landscape", which provides a nice overview of the US mobile TV market. It tracks the evolution of mobile TV in the US from the current low-quality MobiTV services available on today's cellular networks, through the evolution to cellular broadcast via MBMS offered by IPWireless, and finally the commercial mobile broadcast TV services that will be launched this year by Crown Castle's subsidiary Modeo (using DVB-H) and Qualcomm's subsidiary MediaFlo.

China to Launch T-DMB Mobile TV Service

According to an article in Variety.com, China plans to launch a mobile TV service based on T-DMB technology in April. This follows the announcement from Samsung earlier this month that it will ship 200,000 T-DMB phones to China.

This is the first commercial launch of T-DMB services outside of Korea, although a T-DMB trial has been held in the UK, and a big trial is planned in Germany this June in time for the FIFA World Cup.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Starcom Mobile TV User Survey

Market research published yesterday by Starcom points to an interesting distinction in user's minds between using their portable devices (such as MP3 players and PMPs) and their cellular phones for consuming mobile TV content. According to the research, consumers look at personal media players as entertainment devices, and expect to use them for viewing music clips, comedy and short movies, while the cellular phone is perceived as an information device, used to view news, finance and weather updates.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mobile TV and Portable Video Convergence

If you recall my first post (just yesterday), I told you that this blog will cover both live mobile TV streaming services, and portable "TV-to-Go" services such as those available on Apple's video iPod and other devices. Business Week posted an article by Olga Kharif yesterday claiming that these two markets are bound to converge, with mobile TV broadcast services providing content not only to cellphones, but to portable video players such as the iPod as well. This makes a lot of sense, since these devices have larger screens than cellphones, making the mobile TV experience more enjoyable. In addition, it is much more convenient to get TV programs beamed directly to the device, rather than having to wait until you get back home, connect the device to a PC, and download the programs from there.

Note that viewing TV on mobile broadcast networks will not always be a real-time experience. Most of the T-DMB and S-DMB mobile phones in Korea, and the prototype DVB-H phones available in Europe, have built-in PVRs, which enable recording of live TV programs to the phone's memory. In addition, both the DVB-H and the MediaFlo standards include specifications for "filecasting", which is a method of broadcasting files to the mobile device in offline. These files can later be viewed at the user's convenience. So, instead of downloading yesterday's TV episode to your PC and then transferring it to your video iPod, you could have the show "beamed" to your device overnight, and enjoy it the next day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Where do we stand today on mobile TV services?

These are pretty exciting times, with live TV services over cellular networks launched by most 3G operators worldwide, from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Australia to Italy, France, UK and the US. While adoption of these services by consumers has been quite high, market research has shown that viewers don't spend more than 30-40 minutes on average per month watching TV on their mobile phones.

Korea launched two competing mobile broadcast systems in 2005, S-DMB and T-DMB, and Japan will soon follow with the commercial launch of mobile ISDB-T in Q1 2006. Many trials of T-DMB and DVB-H have been performed in Europe and other parts of the world, and this year we are expected to see initial launches of commercial services using one or both of these technologies. The competition between T-DMB and DVB-H in Europe, and the competition between DVB-H and Qualcomm's MediaFlo in the USA, are likely to generate a lot of headlines in 2006.

What is this Blog all about?

This is my first post, so I thought I'd give some background on what I intend to cover here. The Gamdala Mobile TV Blog will deal mainly with services and products for live TV streaming over cellular and mobile broadcast networks, but also related issues such as TV shows on portable devices (video iPod, pocketdish), and services that let you take your TV anywhere (Sony Location-Free TV, SlingMedia, Orb Networks and Monsoon HAVA).