Tuesday, December 18, 2007

French Mobile TV Subscribers Reach 1.2M

According to ScreenDigest, the number of mobile TV subscribers in France as of December 207 has reached 1.2 million. At the Telecom 2007 conference in Paris, Orange France reported a total of 1 million mobile TV subscribers, while SFR claimed to have 200,000 mobile TV subscribers. ScreenDigest notes that both cellular operators have witnesses a subscriber growth of 40% in the last quarter, driven by the launch of unlimited data, video, TV and music plans.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Screen Digest: 140M Mobile TV Subscribers by 2011

According to a new market research report titled "Mobile TV: Business Models and Opportunities" published by Screen Digest, there will be 140M mobile TV subscribers worldwide by 2011, and global revenues will reach 4.4B Euros. However, the report states that in the short term network operators are not expected to make much profit from the mobile TV services.

In terms of business models, the report predicts that free to air services, that currently drive customer growth in Asia, will not be popular elsewhere since the business model behind these services is not proven. Therefore, 90% of the revenues in 2011 will come from subscription-based services.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Korea's Satellite Mobile TV Calls for Help

The world's only satellite-based mobile broadcast TV service is in deep trouble. According to an article in the Korea Times, TU Media which operates the S-DMB service in Korea has accumulated a debt that will reach 270 Billion Won (about $270M) by the end of this year. There are 1.2M subscribers to the service, but their number hasn't grown since this summer.

One of the main obstacles for the service is regulation: The S-DMB service is not allowed to broadcast the main Korean terrestrial broadcast channels KBS, MBC, SBS and EBS. TU Media's request from the government to ease these regulatory restrictions has been unanswered, and their plea for additional funding from SKT, TU Media's largest shareholder, has also been declined. According to the Korea Times, there are reports that SKT may even withdraw from the S-DMB business in the near future.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mobile TV License in Germany Awarded to T-Systems

Screen Digest reports that T-Systems Media & Broadcast (TSMB), a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, has received a license to broadcast DVB-H in the UHF frequency band from the German Federal Network Agency.

TSMB plans to start the commercial mobile TV service in spring 2008 in Hanover, and expand to the capitals of the 15 federal states by the end of 2008. According to the license terms, the broadcaster is expected to cover 90 per cent of the German population by 2015. Additional mobile TV broadcasting licenses will be awarded in Germany by the end of this year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

AT&T Delays Mobile TV Launch in the USA

AT&T announced that it is delaying the roll out of its planned MediaFLO mobile TV service in the USA to the beginning of 2008. Originally, the service was scheduled to start by the fourth quarter of 2007. The company didn't give a specific reason for the delay, other than stating that they want to make sure that the service meets customers' expectations.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mobile TV Subscriber Forecast Breaks 2B Mark

According to a new market research report published by Telecom Trends International, the number of global mobile TV users will grow from 20 million today to over 2 billion by 2013. As far as I recall, this is the highest subscriber number forecast published by a market research firm to date. The previous record was set by ABI Research, who predicted last year that the global number of mobile TV users will grow to 514M by 2011.

The Telecom Trends International report also sets a record for mobile TV revenues, predicting that by 2013 the global revenues from mobile TV will reach $134.5B. This figure is more than 10 times higher than any other mobile TV revenue figure published by market research firms in the past.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Aloha Networks Sells Mobile TV Spectrum

Aloha Networks, the parent company of US Mobile TV operator HiWire, has sold its 700 MHz spectrum to AT&T for $2.5B. It is not clear yet whether AT&T plans to use the spectrum for mobile TV broadcast services, or for wireless web access enabling combined voice/data/video services. It seems that the second option is more probable, since AT&T has already signed a deal with MediaFLO for using its mobile TV broadcast network. In that case, the deal signals another hit to the global mobile broadcast TV market, after the shut down of the Virgin and Modeo services earlier this year.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Ups and Downs of Mobile TV

Mobile TV has always been a controversial issue. The big players who sell handsets, network equipment and mobile services, keep taking the optimistic side, and pushing the analysts in that direction. On the other hand, there are always people who ask "Who would like to view TV on a a tiny screen, and pay for it?". In the last few weeks it seems that the debate is shifting more to the negative side, especially when discussing subscription-based mobile TV services.

Still on the optimistic side, Juniper Research is predicting that the number of users who receive mobile broadcast TV services will increase from 12M in 2007 to 120M by 2012, with service revenues expected to exceed $6.6B. And France is pushing forward with the introduction of Mobile TV services in the summer of 2008, just in time for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The launch of DVB-H in France during 2008 follows the introduction of DVB-H in Italy during the 2006 Soccer World Cup, and in Finland during 2007. While the Italian service enjoyed a high adoption rate initially, the latest reports show that service uptake has flattened. And the service in Finland was stalled for several months due to the lack of compatible handsets and compelling content. The situation in Europe is quite inline with Gartner's recent survey, which found that only 5 percent of European subscribers are interested in watching video or TV on their phones.

Industry analysts have also shifted their positions in view of the market situation, demonstrated by the discontinuation of mobile TV services offered by Virgin and BT Movio in the UK, and by Modeo in the USA. The EE Times says that Mobile TV chip makers "struggles to hold on", as the market has proven successful only in countries that offer free-to-air broadcasts (Japan and Korea). Stephen Wellman from Information Week asks "When Will Anyone Actually Watch Mobile TV?", claiming that small screens and poor marketing have probably killed the service, although service providers in the USA don't reveal any numbers.

Mike Masnik at TechDirt writes about "The Ongoing Blind Belief In Mobile Broadcast TV", stating that mobile users don't have the time for watching broadcast TV programs, and would prefer short video clips on demand instead. He also says that people can broadcast their own TV from home, and watch it on their mobile device using a SlingBox and an unlimited data plan, meaning they don't have to pay mobile operators for such services. Indeed, the introduction of SlingPlayer Mobile for SymbinOS is likely to be a disruptive move in this direction. Russel Shaw at ZDNet takes the same position, claiming that "Mobile TV is So Overhyped".

So what's your take on the future of mobile TV, and in particular subscription-based Mobile Broadcast TV services? Please comment on this post to voice your opinion.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Virgin and Modeo Discontinue their Mobile TV Services

BT Movio and Virgin have decided to pull the plug on their DAB-IP based service,which was launched in the UK last October. Among reasons cited for this action are lack of user acceptance, lack of compatible handsets, and the decision by the European Union to back the rival DVB-H technology.

In the US, Crown Castle decided to stop the DVB-H Mobile TV service of its Modeo subsidiary, and to spin-off the company by leasing the spectrum and the assets it owns to two venture capital firms. Crown Castle did not provide any reasons for this step, but it is probably related to Modeo's failure in getting any mobile operator on board its service, and the success of the rival MediaFLO service which has been adopted by Verizon and AT&T.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

7.3M Mobile Broadcast TV Users in Japan

Screen Digest reported this week that the total number of Mobile Broadcast TV handsets sold in Japan has reached 7.3M by the end of Q1 2007, according to official numbers released by the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA). Japan launched its own standard for Mobile Broadcast TV, called ISDB-T or OneSeg, in April 2006.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

APAC Mobile Broadcast TV Market Heating Up

Serveral announcements made this week at CommunicAsia 2007 and Broadcast Asia 2007 in Singapore signal a wave of upcoming trials and commercial services of mobile broadcast TV in the Asia-Pacific region.

MiTV and Nokia announced that they will launch a commercial DVB-H service in Malaysia in the second half of 2007. The infrastructure for the service will be integrated and maintained by Nokia-Siemens Networks, and the first handset to support the service will be the new Nokia N77.

Philippine Multi-media System, Inc. and UDCast announced that a commercial DVB-H service in the Philippines will also be launched this year, following a successful trial held in Manila. During the trial, PMSI is broadcasting 8 TV channels to Samsung DVB-H handsets, but the variety of both channels and devices is expected to increase at the time of the commercial service launch.

And in Hong Kong, cellular operator PCCW will conduct a technical trial of Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology which will run through November this year. Another MediaFLO trial is currently underway in Taiwan, run by China Network Systems and Taiwan Television Media.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Motorola's MediaFLO Mobile TV Handset

According to PhoneScoop, the FCC has revealed the Motorola Z6tv phone which supports Qualcomm's MediaFLO mobile broadcast TV technology, and Verizon's VCast Mobile TV service. The phone has not been announced by Motorola yet, and has been revealed through the FCC approval process for the US market.
According to the FCC webiste, the phone also has EV-DO high-speed cellular data support, a 2 megapixel camera and USB connectivity. This is the first Motorola phone outside of Korea that supports mobile broadcast TV. Previously Motorola announced a Satellite DMB phone called "Moto View" for the Korean market.

Monday, April 16, 2007

DVB-H Information in Hebrew

Orange Israel has an excellent website about the history and future of communications, which explains many technologies and buzzwords in mobile and wireless communication in simple terms, using beautiful flash animations. On the website you can find information in Hebrew about DVB-H, GPS, NFC, H.264, MIMO, and many others.

Friday, April 13, 2007

80M Mobile Broadcast TV Subscribers by 2011

eMarketer published a new market research report this week, predicting that by 2011, 80M users worldwide will pay for mobile broadcast TV services. It is interesting to compare this forecast with the data from In-Stat published on the same day, predicting 125M mobile broadcast TV users worldwide by 2011 (however, this number may include free mobile TV services as well). Another interesting comparison would be with eMarketer's own research from last year, which predicted 100M mobile broadcast TV subscribers by 2009.

eMarketer is also forecasting that by 2011, an additional 120M users will pay for mobile video and TV services delivered over cellular networks, and that the total number of mobile video and TV users, including both paid and free services, will increase from 40M users in 2006 to 754M users in 2011.

In terms of revenues, eMarketer is forecasting a total revenue of $12.7B for mobile video and TV services, comprising of $5B from cellular video and TV services, and $7.7B from mobile broadcast TV subscription.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New US Mobile TV Standard Under Development

EETimes has reported that the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), the US standards group responsible for digital TV, is developing a new standard for mobile TV called ATSC-M/H (ATSC-Mobile/Handheld). The standard will be targeted at the delivery of TV services to mobile and handheld devices, and is designed to be backward-compatible with the existing ATSC digital terrestrial TV standard. ATSC is currently used in the US to provide High-Definition TV broadcasts to TVs in the home.

The ATSC-M/H standard is actually the third standard being proposed for extending the existing ATSC broadcasts in the US market for mobile reception. The two other standards are A-VSB promoted by Samsung and Rohde & Schwarz, and MPH proposed by LG and Harris.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

VCast MediaFLO Service Review

USA Today has published a review of Verizon's VCast Mobile TV service, which is based on Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology. The reviewer was quite satisifed by the overall quality and content, but notes some issues with the reception in Orlando and the external antenna. Similar to my experience from 3GSM, the reviewer notes an excellent channel switching time of only 2 seconds, compared to 8 seconds with the Modeo DVB-H service which he tested in New York.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mobile TV Services and Trials Update

Below are some of the recent announcements regarding mobile TV trials and commercial services.

Commercial Services:
  • Verizon launched its VCast Mobile TV service, based on Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology, in 20 US states. The service includes 8 TV channels, and costs $15 a month. Also see the analysis from infoSync.
  • AT&T, the largest US wireless operator, has announced that it will also use Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology in the mobile TV service it plans to launch during the fourth quarter of this year.
  • EchoStar has invested $40M in TU Media, the Korean company which runs the country's S-DMB service. This will make EchoStar the second largest shareholder in the company, after mobile operator SK Telecom.


  • Modeo launched a "beta" version of the their DVB-H service in New York City. The service features 5 TV channels, and has some issues with picture quality and channel switching time - see the impressions by Gizmodo. According to the EE Times, The FCC gave Modeo permission to increase their power by a factor of 10 in urban areas and 20 in rural areas, which might help to solve some of these issues.
  • O2 and Arqiva have launched a trial of DVB-H in Ireland, with 350 users and 13 TV channels. The trial will continue until August.
  • Qualcomm, China Network Systems (CNS) and Taiwan Television Enterprises (TTE) will launch a trial of MediaFLO technology in Taiwan. The trial will feature 4 TV channels from CNS and 3 from TTE.
  • Mobilkom Austria and Hutchinson 3G will launch a DVB-H trial in Austria during April. The trial will include 400 users, and will be funded by the Austria Regulation Authority RTR.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

3GSM 2007 Mobile TV Highlights

As expected, 3GSM 2007 was packed with Mobile TV demonstrations everywhere - including handsets, chipsets, network infrastructure, enabling technologies and content.

On the handset side, the show's major announcement was probably the Nokia N77 DVB-H handset. As rumored just before the show, this is a mid-range handset, which is targeted at initial DVB-H deployments in Vietnam, Italy and Finland. I took a look at the video quality, and it was quite good at 15 frames per second. However, every minute or two there was an occasional error in the stream (picture freezes or breaks into blocks). The demonstrator at the N77 stand in the Nokia booth claimed that this was due to the "crowded network at the show", which seems highly unlikely since DVB-H is a broadcast network... The channel switching time was also quite long, at 4-6 seconds. The long switching time was also apparent in other DVB-H demos at the show, and I also noticed this issue in CES demos last month, which leads to the conclusion that this is probably an inherent issue with current DVB-H implementations. The Nokia representative told me that the handset will cost 370 Euros without subsidies, and has a 5 hour TV viewing time, and 7.5 days standby time.

Another DVB-H handset was demonstrated by Sagem. Sagem is not a top-tier mobile handset vendor, but their myMobileTV handset is very nicely designed, and features an innovative auto-rotate feature which rotates and expands the image based on the direction in which the device is being held, using an acceleration sensor. In this demo I also witnessed the long channel switching time, and the occasional frame error every 1-2 minutes. The Sagem demonstrator came up with another original excuse for this, claiming that it was due to a low battery on the device (although the device was connected to a power supply and charging...). Another interesting handset demonstrated at the show was the Samsung SGH-F510, a slim DVB-H phone which blends well with the company's "thin is in" design.

Qualcomm showed the MediaFLO handsets which will launch with Verizon's service at the end of this quarter, the Samsung SCH-U620 and the LG VX9400. Qualcomm also showed a prototype handset of its own design, which is used mainly for testing the service. Judging by the video quality, it seems that MediaFLO currently has the edge: Frame rate is about 20-25 frames per second, and channel switching time is 2 seconds. MediaFLO also had a larger variety of channels at the show: 20 TV channels vs. only 9 channels which were available on the SIDSA DVB-H demo network at the show.

Other vendors were showing unicast live TV over cellular networks, circuit-switched streaming (using 3G video telephony for content delivery), and TV interactivity solutions. Compared to last year's show, 3GSM 2007 demonstrated the maturity of mobile TV technology and the range of available handsets, driven by commercially deployed services. However, subscriber numbers for paid mobile broadcast TV services in Europe remain low, both for DVB-H and for DAB-IP, so the question of return on investment still remains.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

3 Italia Signed Up 300,00 Mobile TV Subscribers in 2006

Variety International reports that 3 Italia has signed up more than 300,000 subscribers to its DVB-H mobile TV service, but overall growth is occurring at a slower-than-expected rate. 3 expected to reach 500,000 subscribers by the end of 2006, but did not reach its target despite a surge in subscribers during the run up to Christmas, and 3 Italia's round-the-clock coverage of "Big Brother."

3 Italia is planning to offer a new phone, with a 4.3 inch screen, in hope of attracting more subscribers to its service. The company will also export its knowledge to other countries, starting with a 3-month trial of DVB-H with Malaysia's Maxis Communication.

3GSM 2007 Mobile TV Preview

The industry is preparing for this year's 3GSM conference in Barcelona, which will take place from Monday 12/2 until Thursday 15/2. According to a poll by EETimes Europe, mobile TV will be the key topic at 3GSM this year, and indeed several companies are preparing to showcase their mobile TV products at the show. These demonstrations will be assisted by a 3GSM DVB-H network operated by Spanish mobile TV technology provider SISDA and local operator Albertis telecom. The network will broadcast 10 mobile TV channels, including MTV, CNBC, CNN and some Spanish TV channels. One of the channels will be 3GSM TV, which broadcasts live news and content directly from the show.

Some of the other demonstrations at the show:

* According to sources quoted by Reuters, Nokia is planning to reveal a mid-range N-Series mobile phone called N77, capable of receiving DVB-H broadcasts. The phone is supposed to be in the 200-300 Euro range, as opposed to Nokia's N-92 DVB-H handset which currently costs over 600 Euros.

* Chinese handset vendor ZTE will demonstrate its own "N-Series" DVB-H mobile phone, the N7100, which is based on Siano's SMS1000 mobile TV receiver chipset. The N7100 handset, which features HSDPA high-speed cellular connectivity, will be distributed in Italy by Telecom Italia Mobile in the next few weeks.

* Mobile TV chip vendor Frontier Silicon and mobile TV software vendor S3 will demonstrate a multi-mode reference design for mobile TV based on Frontier Silicon's FS1030 "Paradiso" moible TV receiver which supports DVB-H, DVB-T, T-DMB and DAB-IP; and on S3's "onHandTV" multi-standard mobile TV client software.

* NEC and Telegent systems will demonstrate a high-definition, low-power mobile TV platform running on NEC's application processor, which allows up to four and a half hours of viewing time.

* TI, Orange and Viaccess will demonsrate content and access protection for mobile TV services, utlizing TI’s M-Shield security framework, which is integrated into the OMAP application processor platform.

* NXP software (formerly Philips Software) will demonstrate a full mobile TV software solution running on TI's OMAPV1030 baseband application processor.

* Ericsson will demonstrate mobile TV using MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service), following a successful MBMS trial conducted in 2006. Ericsson plans commercial rollout of MBMS services in 2008.

I'm off to Barcelona tonight, and will do my best to continue and provide mobile TV coverage from the show itself.

Monday, January 22, 2007

UK's DAB-IP Service Fails to Attract Subscribers

According to a report in the Guardian, the Mobile TV service based on DAB-IP technology, which was launched by BT Movio and Virgin in the UK last October, has attracted less than 10,000 subscribers. Despite a major marketing campaign starring Pamela Anderson, and a price cut on Virgin's "Lobster" handset, the service has not taken off with UK subscribers.

Among the reasons attributed to this failure are the availability of a single handset which supports the service (a rather bulky Windows Mobile device designed by HTC), and the relatively limited content offering (only 5 TV channels).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

CES Mobile TV Highlights - Part 2

I got a closer look at the LG VX9400 today at the MediaFLO booth. The video quality was very good, with no frame drops, and a surprising channel switching time of less than 2 seconds. The phone itself has a nice design, and is not bulky as you might expect from a phone that incorporates an additional receiver. The only issue is the external retractable antenna, which resembles the cellular phones we had 10 years ago. It seems fragile and looks completely out of place - hopefully newer models will feature an internal antenna.

I also saw the Samsung SCH-U620 MediaFLO phone at the Samsung booth. At first, it seemed that quality is much worse - frequent frame drops, and a channel switching time of 4-6 seconds. But, when I moved the handset a few meters to another location, the reception improved significantly, and I witnesses similar reception quality to the LG phone. The Samsung handset is also very nicely designed, althugh the screen doesn't rotate 90 degrees as with the LG model, and there is still the issue of the external retractable antenna.

The Modeo DVB-H phone, designed by HTC, was also demonstrated at the show, both at the Microtune stand in the IBM booth (local playback only), and at the HTC stand in the Microsoft booth (live TV reception). Quality was lower than the MediaFLO service, with frequent frame drops and a channel switching time of 6-8 seconds.

The demo of TV over Wimax, mentioned in my previous post, was shown at the Intel and Samsung booths. The demo shows streaming television at 1 megabits per second, including an integrated TV channel guide. It turned out that the demo, which is implemented using a USB dongle receiver by Samsung, does not use standard WiMax but actually WiBro, the pre-standard version which is deployed in Korea.

IPTV, HD content download from the Internet, home media distribution and wireless HDMI were also major topics at this year's show, but not for this blog...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

CES Mobile TV Highlights - Part 1

Yes, it's that time of year again, when 140,000 people gather in Las Vegas to see the latest consumer electronic products and services. The major announcement of the first day was the official launch of the MediaFLO Mobile TV service by Verizon in the USA. The printed edition of USA Today which I got at the airport on my way to CES featured this item on the front page. The service will go live at the end of March, with CBS, NBC, Fox, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. Verizon will offer phones from Samsung and LG to support the service.

I saw the LG 9400 MediaFLO phone at LG's booth today, and TV reception quality is very good. You can see pictures of the phone at gearlog. LG also had a DVB-H phone at their booth, but it wasn't receiving any TV signals...

Modeo, which plans to launch a competing mobile TV service in the USA using DVB-H technology, announced its "commercial quality mobile TV beta service", which will start in the first quarter of 2007 in New York. Modeo's service will feature TV content from FOX and The Discovery Channel, and radio content from Music Choice. The choice of handsets, however, will be limited to a single handset designed by HTC.

As if we didn't have enough mobile broadcast TV standards, Samsung announced its own mobile TV technology which is being trialed this week at CES. The technology, called Advanced-VSB (or A-VSB for short), is an enhancement of the existing VSB digital television standard used by ATSC, and enables broadcasters to transmit a mobile digital TV signal on the same frequency as they use for standard television broadcasting. And another emerging bearer for mobile TV is WiMax: MobiTV, NDS and RunCom are demonstrating mobile TV over WiMax at the show.

More on Mobile TV at CES tomorrow...