Telecommunications, Automotive and Market Research

More than 15 years in the mobile telecommunications industry and an industry analyst since 1998.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ireland Axes Mobile TV Plans

An article by the GSM Association published January 10, 2011 indicates the Irish regulator is withdrawing its plans to offer mobile broadcast. The article, quoted in its entirety below, says:
ComReg, the Irish telecoms watchdog, said it will “not be proceeding further” with a plan to offer a mobile broadcast licence covering five urban areas of the country, stating that following a consultation period, “it became apparent to ComReg that use of the identified spectrum to provide a Mobile TV service in Ireland was not the subject of particularly strong interest to potential operators, and interest in the proposed procedure to grant the authorisation diminished.” After seeing further information on interest from stakeholders, it received just one response, from Vodafone Ireland, which agreed with the decision not to go ahead with the plan. The regulator says that it will “keep under review the potential for the identification of spectrum which would enable the award of dedicated licences for mobile TV,” and that future, technology-neutral awards of UHF spectrum could be used for mobile broadcast services.
The decision further highlights the lack of success for mobile broadcast services on an international basis, having once been seen as a potential “big thing” for the industry. The most high-profile failure was Qualcomm’s MediaFLO venture, which is to be closed imminently having failed to become a viable service. While there have been a number of pilot and commercial mobile broadcast launches globally, these have not led to significant subscriber interest, and in South Korea, which has been something of a market leader, ecosystem participants have struggled to monetise services. According to a Juniper Research study, the number of mobile broadcast subscribers will not reach 10 million globally “until 2013 at the earliest,” at which point more than 180 million subscribers will be accessing multimedia services via 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi networks. Trials are also underway of mobile broadcast technology which is more closely related to mobile standards.
DVB-H cellphone
It's certainly not the only place that this business model has struggled.  Operators have shut down operations in Switzerland and returned spectrum in France while mobile TV operations in Hungary and Germany are at a standstill

What's significant about this? The "operator" mentioned in the GSMA article is not a broadcaster but cellphone company Vodafone Ireland, which responded with a bored, "whatever" when told they might not be able to provide mobile television service.  This spectrum was intended to be broadcast to cellphones using the same business model attempted by MediaFLO in the US.

Are they ever going to get it right? Maybe. It's worth noting that ComReg is considering "technology neutral awards of UHF spectrum." In other words, perhaps it's not going to be dedicated to the cellphone-centric DVB-H service. DVB-H is intended to be offered on a subscription basis by cellphone operators, a business model which, the article points out correctly, has "... struggled to monetise services."

It points up what I've been saying all along... the local broadcasters are in the best position to offer TV, mobile or fixed and the cellphone-based subscription model will continue to struggle if not die off altogether.

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