Mobile TV: The New Face of Television.

 

                                                                     P N Chopra

With the increased mobility in our life style, the need to provide communication and broadcasting services on the move in a vehicle or at different temporary locations is becoming very important. The mobile subscriber lines in India as we know at 65 million have over taken the land lines which stand at 50 million.

       It is well recognized that while the mobile cellular systems are very attractive for voice, data and interactive services, they have limitations in meeting the requirements of common multimedia services to a large number of users simultaneously.

       After cinema, television, computers, mobile phone is set to become the fourth  screen medium, for video that is Mobile multimedia services for mobile users and operators. There is a huge potential market of approximately 2 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide for such service today. With very high mobility support, users can be reached almost everywhere.

       With the possibilities of 30 to 50 TV channels on the mobile device, Mobile TV in fact, brings the possibility to extend TV viewership in the home context to the mobile environment, all in a converged single device -mobile phone.

       Mobile TV however is already a reality worldwide. In the US, Sprint cell phone customers have been accessing live broadcast TV since late 2003 and Vodafone live 3G customers in Germany were  able to watch the Tour De France live on Eurosport last summer. TUMedia Corp/SK Telecom customers in South Korea have been able to watch seven channels of live Pay TV delivered via satellite, since May 2005 and a free-to-air terrestrial mobile TV service went live in Seoul late last year. Orange UK and ‘3’ both introduced live television over their 3G networks in the UK during 2005

       World Cup soccer was the first major event that was telecast on mobile phones.

 In some of the countries, mobile TV rights were sold for up to 10% of the television rights. In Germany, T-Mobile had planed to show 20 matches live, while, another mobile operator, had plans to show four minute excerpts

       The national scenario is also gearing up towards such services like live streaming TV on your 3G-enabled mobile phones. The Communications Ministry has some times back allowed all Unified Access Service Providers, to offer 3G (the next generation of mobile) services utilising the existing spectrum after getting prior clearance from security agencies before offering any value-added services based on 3G frequency .

MTNL and BSNL had announced plans to launch 3G services, which will enable them to offer mobile TV Service

WILL mobile TV emerge as a new revenue generator for telecom operators? World Cup soccer seems to have already answered this question as a large number of telecom service providers have proponed their mobile TV plans to ride the popularity of soccer. In India, where Bollywood movies and cricket provide main source of entertainment, success of mobile TV will open’s new revenue stream

What is generating so much excitement, however, is the possibility of success, boosted by the knowledge that mobile TV subscriptions represent new money for the content, broadcast and mobile industries, with no obvious cannibalization of existing Pay TV revenues or cellular income. If mobile TV does prove a hit with consumers,  we could then be witnessing the birth of a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry.

       There are however mobile TV sceptics. Several analysts and reports have cast doubt on whether consumers are really interested in watching TV on the very small screen. But they are currently being drowned out by the noise of two great industries mobile telecoms and television rushing to test delivery and reception technologies, find the right content, establish technology/business partnerships and create viable business models.

It is the advancement of technology that is going to make television broadcasting to mobile feasible. This technology helps extending TV services, to cite a few examples, broadcasting of multimedia content, utility information and alerts for disaster emergencies, to viewers in mobile environment will a useful usage. It is a proven technology and already prevailing in many parts of the world. The question of readiness is not of much importance as it would be how and when this technology is adopted for our countryThe Govt. needs to take an early decision to introduce appropriate technology for mobile TV in the country keeping in view the benefit that it would provide to large number of mobile viewers and also provide excellent market prospects.  Many systems are going to evolve to augment the mobile systems with mobile broadcast/multicast services which can be received by augmented mobile handsets. It will address key issues surrounding consumer attitudes and behaviour towards video on mobiles, service propositions and content offerings, business models and value chains, transmission technologies and standards, content production, interactivity, advertising, regulation and much more. Drawing on experience from existing commercial mobile TV services and the many technical and commercial trials worldwide, the country should aim to come out with a clearer idea of the impact this new media in the near future.

 2006 could be a landmark year in the development of mobile TV, with the first commercial broadcast overlay networks outside Korea set to deliver live TV to mobile devices. Mobile TV service providers in the US will, for the first time, be offered an alternative to cellular transmission and all eyes will be on mobile phone operators to see if they intend to push ahead with live TV over their cellular networks or migrate TV services to the overlay networks like Crown Casde Mobile Media’s DVB-H system or MediaFLO USA’s (Forward link only) based solution. Their decisions have important implications for the long-term role of 3G networks in mobile TV and whether this will be limited primarily to non-live content and interactive applications. The mobile TV service that was available during the recently concluded Soccer World Cup has raised new hope for the mobile TV service in other countries.

     The phenomenal developments over the past two decades in the field of digitization, signal processing and new devices has progressively eroded the differences between the telecommunications, and broadcasting services and as well as between fixed and mobile services. Convergence has happened earlier than expected and it is no longer a ‘topic’ of the future but of the ‘present’. As per ITU, convergence is happening to provide multiple services at the customer end equipment; over the transmission medium; at the technology level; licensing; and at the fixed/mobile front. The delivery of multimedia services - data, voice, audio and video - over any medium be it wired, wireless or satellite is leading to the merger of the telecom, broadcasting and Internet services. The convergence as such is a reality. The push is to meet the requirements of individuals and groups anywhere and anytime in the most cost effective manner.

      Mobile Multimedia broadcasting can also enable interactivity via a return channel using the cellular networks. Interactivity, which essentially is a personal experience, will enable the broadcasters & mobile operators to engage more with the audience and at a relevant instance on their personal handheld devices. A richer end-user experience follows with broadcast providing the triggers for increased cellular traffic & usage

      Digital Multimedia Broadcasting as such can be the new form of personal &   interactive media displayed via diverse platforms of digital devices.

      The various technologies being developed are having platforms like S-DMB, T-DMB, DVB-H, ISDB-T, Media FLO, etc which are examples of such systems. DVB-H which is known to be a unique world wide standard addressing most of the operators needs some say will be dominant in 2010 among other standards Some of these are already operational in some countries and some are under implementation.

     Satellite signal for such services will be delivered either via multiple paths, or directly from satellite as well as through other means

     Mobile multimedia transmission will thus be the true convergence of the cellular and the broadcasting domains.

     While all these systems provide similar services and address same markets, they have their own characteristics, advantages and limitations in terms of performance in mobile environment, power consumptions of mobile devices, capacities and infrastructure, etc     It has to be kept in mind that the content of multimedia services in mobile environment e.g. small screen, available time, noisy and not so conducive ambience, etc is to be tailor made for such service conditions.

      The acronym DTH is exciting as it is also relevant to the mobile space. Direct-to- hand is what an industry expert would like to call it. We need to discuss the next wave of applications. The applications are being captured by the cell phone and voice will only become one of the functions offered by mobile, as new vistas in telephony will unveil