Mobile TV 'to reach half a billion in 2011'

Mobile television services will have more than half a billion subscribers around the world in 2011, according to latest analysis from New York's ABI Research. Its report, Broadcast and Unicast Mobile TV Services, says the fledgling market for mobile TV will rise from around 6.4m subscribers at the end of 2005 to 514m in 2011. Advertising-supported broadcast services will propel growth over the next few years, says ABI.

"Broadcast will be the preferred method of access to mobile video for most people," says principal analyst Ken Hyers. "Unicast will remain part of the mix, for customers who want to access video-on-demand, but ABI Research believes that the majority of subscription services will be for broadcast content, and that unicast-only subscriptions will not be a significant part of the market."

ABI's report says South Korea and Japan are the early adopters, but European and North American markets are not far behind, with three contenders planning to introduce mobile video broadcast services in the United States over the next 12 to 18 months. MediaFLO (from Qualcomm, which has developed the MediaFLO mobile TV technology) plans to be first off the mark, having announced its intention to launch services in the fourth quarter of 2006; Hiwire (Aloha Partners) and Modeo (Crown Castle) will follow suit in 2007.

But Hyers cautioned that "most markets will not be able to support more than two broadcast networks due to the high cost of building them, and the fact that most markets only have three or four major mobile operators selling wireless services to subscribers".

What will determine which broadcasters survive in any given market? The most critical factor will be commitment from mobile operators, said Hyers. "MediaFLO has been built for this purpose from the ground up, and will almost certainly be among the winners in the US.

"Verizon Wireless has already committed to it. Modeo and Hiwire are competing for the business of just three major operators, and one of them will fail. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Modeo plans to be faster to market, and if it signs a major operator quickly, its battle is half won. On the other hand, in Hiwire's favour is its large (12 MHz) and valuable swath of spectrum with more favourable characteristics than Modeo's."

Lovelace Consulting  |  23.06.2006

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