Tag Archives: broadcast

In CommunicAsia 2009: Making Mobile TV Work

communicasia2009

It is more than one motnh ago that I was in CommunicAsia  for a Mobile TV panel. Here are the main points we discussed about how to make the business case for Mobile TV work.

  • Free-to-Air channels are a must to drive adoption of Mobile TV into the mainstream, as Japan One Seg, Korea T-DMB and even the DVB-H Italian case show. More than 20 million Japanese watch TV on a phone. As of today, 85 % of the new handsets sold in Japan have a One Seg tuner. Even the iPhone has an One Seg tuner accesory (see picture)
  • “Free” creates a large audience that can be monetized through subscriptions, advertisement and transactions (VOD, Catch-up TV, cross-selling). It is the economics of free, common in Internet and Software, applied to Mobile TV.
  • There is a need for a next-gen Mobile TV that puts together Broadcast and Unicast technologies. Broadcast enables FTA channels at zero marginal cost (it is the same cost to serve one customer than one million) and it is efficient for premium mass audience channels like sports channels. Meantime, Unicast provides unlimited number of channels for premium, niche/long tail, VOD and catch-up TV that can be monetize as subscriptions or pay-per-download. The 3G network also enables interactive services, like EPGs, audience monitoring, interactive ads, or interactions with social network (see what my friend watch, or “watch and chat”), that give extra chance for monetization.
  • Focus on high-end devices, like iPhone or ones with TV tuners. Early adopters of these devices are the same early adopters that will watch TV on a mobile. It is a waste to support a large number of mid-range or low-end devices. Mobile TV has not crossed the chasm yet.

1seg-iphone1

Some other curious facts and learning from the Japanese One Seg: Mobile TV experience:

NHK Study: Where people watch mobile TV?
1) At home in a room wo TV 38%, 2) At work/school 26%, 3)While bathing 24% – On train goes in 7th place (17%) tied with at home in a room with a TV!
=>  There are more use cases than just watching TV on the train…

DIMSDRIVE research for Japan:
What people like about Mobile TV: 1) Anywhere, 2) free, 3) simple
What they do not like: 1) Battery, 2) don’t need to watch TV outside, 3) do not want to watch TV on a phone

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?

Broadcast Mobile TV trials in Spain

Enrique Dans, one of the most influential bloggers in Spain, posted some interesting data about the Broadcast Mobile TV trials run by Abertis in Spain with each of the main mobile operators. Here is the translation:

“There has been three trials in Spain, run by Abertis, using Nokia 7710 handsets:

  1. Telefónica in Madrid and Barcelona from September 2005 to February 2006: 500 users, content from TVE1, TVE2, Teledeporte, 24H, Cuatro, CNN+, Jetix, 40TV, A3, Telecinco, FDF, TV3, Telemadrid, LaOtra and Intereconomia. 55% of the users said they would continue with the service for a price of €5/month, 75% would recommend it. Average usage was 16 minutes per day, with 71% between 15 ans 20 minutes.
  2. Vodafone in Seville and Valencia from December 2005 to March 2006: 300 users, content from Antena 3 TV, Net TV, Sogecable, Telecinco, Canal Sur, RTVE, Canal Nou and Veo TV. 80.08% would recommend the service, 80% considered it was easy to use.  Average usage 35.39 minutes/day on weekdays and 37.90 minutes/day om weekends.
  3. Amena (now Orange) in Zaragoza and Gijón from March to July 2006: 200 users, content from TVE1, Teledeporte, Canal 24h, Tele5 estrellas, Nova, Neox, Cuatro, 40 latino, CNN+, Net TV, Veo TV, Aragón TV and TV Asturiana.”

The results of the trials were quite promising in terms of usage and user experience. Since 2006 there has been serious improvement in the user interface, with the use of more sophisticated Rich Media Clients and a wider variety of handsets available. Rich Media Clients are Software clients installed in the handsets that allow for a more intuitive usage and better interactivity, including Electronic Service Guide. Therefore, expect a better user feed-back than two years ago.

The price model that we can foresee for Mobile TV is based on subscription. Since DVB-H and DVB-SH are broadcast technologies, there is no reason to charge based on usage the way 3G operators do today on unicast model, where the spectrum is occupied by a unicast channel for each user. All-you-can-eat model based on a flat fee is what broadcast Mobile TV technology enables.

Many Mobile operators deploying DBV-H/SH will have a hybrid model with both broadcast (for mass channels) and unicast (for video on demand and catch-up TV). We can foresee pricing models such as :

Basic fee with access to Free-to-air TV broadcast channels (under 5 Euro/month)
Premium broadcast channels to be subscribed individually or in bundles (1-3 Euro per individual Premium channel, and 5-10 Euros for bundles)
Video on demand over unicast channels with pay-per-clip or with subscriptions to Video on demand “channels”

Although there is an investment to build an overlay DVB-H/SH network for broadcast Mobile TV, Mobile Operators are in an unique position to take a share of the entertainment market:

– They own the mobile phone users and have a trusted billing relationship
– Mobile Operators can provide a broadcast and unicast combined package to users 
– 3G Operators can re-use sites and antennas by deploying DVB-SH in a band adjacent to UMTS

Mobile TV is getting closer to our pockets.

Mobile TV: Technology choices

Mobile TV

DVB-SH might have been the last standard to arrive on Mobile Broadcast TV technology, but it is showing strong advantages compared to DVB-H, the most extended standard in current trials well ahead of proprietary MediaFlo.

DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld) is an evolution of the exisiting DVB-T (Terrestrial), the current standard for all Terrestrial Digital TV deployments accross Europe. As its predecessor, and as analogue broadcast, DVB-H uses the UHF band.  As the same radio spectrum band is used, DVB-T repeater sites and antennas can be reused for DVB-H, which makes DVB-H a good choice for broadcasters that already have a DVB-T network and want to enter Mobile TV.

DVB-SH (Satellite Handheld) is the latest evolution of the DVB-H standard, that brings a hybrid approach Satellite and Terrestrial, and uses the S-band, reserved in many countries for satellite services.

On one side, satellite easily brings ubiquitous coverage for large multi-country regions. On the other, one of the big advantages of DVB-SH is that the S-band is adjacent to the 2GHz band used by UMTS 3G mobile networks. That makes DVB-SH an optimal choice for Mobile Operators to provide Mobile TV, as in this case Operators will be able to re-use sites and antennas of the existing 3G network. Handset design can also be optimized as a dual-diversity internal antenna system can be used, instead of 2 uncorrelated antennas.

Graham Stephens, CTO at Astro, the biggest Satellite Pay-TV broadcaster in Malaysia, give his insights into DVB-SH, and its advantages. “Trials in France and Portugal are confirming the theoretical predictions”, Graham says.

USA (ICO) will bring the DVB-SH in operation in 2008. Europe expects the first satellite in service in 2009.