Broadcast or Unicast Mobile TV? Both

Mobile TV continue to expand in Asia, Europe and US. AT&T just launched a broadcast Mobile TV service, offering 10 channels for $15 a month. Verizon launched their service one year ago. In Italy UMTS mobile operator 3 (Hutch group) is the most successful commercial launch in Europe for Broadcast Mobile TV with 800.000 subscribers and an offer of 12 channels at 19 Euro per month. Japan is the world leader with 20 million mobile broadcast subscribers, followed by Korea with 8 million.

Broadcast Mobile TV technologies require an overlay network to the mobile cellular network, using a different spectrum to broadcast digital TV channels, and specific handsets equipped with “TV tuners”. This is a very effective way to reach a mass audience of mobile devices for a limited selection of a dozen of channels. (See video example of AT&T service on an LG Vu phone)

Mobile Operators are also offering Mobile TV in unicast using the 3G mobile network infrastructure and spectrum to deliver video through an unicast stream over IP. The most sophisticated services use a software Rich Media Client in the handset that enables a better user experience and more interactivity (see video example of Orange World Mobile TV)

Once of the advantages of unicast Mobile TV is that it enables an unlimited number of channels. Each user receives a dedicated stream delivering his video choice from an on-line catalog that includes Video On Demand, recorded TV shows, pre-recorded interactive channels or live channels.

In short Broadcast brings a few mass TV channels, and Unicast brings unlimited choice. Which option should mobile telcos choose? Unicast can complement a Broadcast Mobile TV service with a wider choice and VoD on top of the 10-12 channel package. So why not integrate both options in the same Service?

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