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Thursday, March 20, 2008

EU stance on DVB-H: Inconsistency and irrelevance

I see that the European Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding has issued a pronouncement about mobile TV, encouraging companies & countries to standardise on DVB-H, rather than alternatives like T-DMB, 3GPP MBMS or Qualcomm MediaFlo or Nextwave's TDtv.

Yet the term "For Mobile TV to take off in Europe, there must first be certainty about the technology" seems to be completely contradictory when compared with the emerging European view on technology neutrality in other mobile services, especially wireless broadband.

Ongoing trends such as WAPECS (EUspeak for tech-neutrality) in 2.6Ghz and 3.5GHz bands are looking like a certainty, while other moves are afoot to allow refarming of GSM spectrum for 3G or LTE (& maybe other) radios. Various arms of regulatory bodies are bending backwards to accomodate WiMAX in particular as a competitor to UMTS & LTE standards.

Plus, the European Commission seems to be stuck in 2003 when it comes to their bullish predictions on Mobile TV. Yet the general consensus (and my own long-term view) is that hardly anybody wants mobile broadcast - it's a niche application, not a massmarket one. It's much easier than any other new mobile service for customers to understand..... ("it's telly, on your phone").... yet it's almost universally viewed as an irrelevance.

The typical digital-TV subscription model also doesn't work too well with prepaid handset users, who account for the bulk of most European countries' user bases. This makes it much more difficult to create a business case as it will be based around pay-per-view or perhaps one-off payments for day/week/month access. Few operators will want to subsidise DVB-H functionality in phones if there's a chance that the customer may only ever spend €1 (or zero) on using it.

In order to succeed, there will also need to be some utility for TV-enabled phones working in "offline" (ie free) mode, to get people to become familiar with the general concept, then hope that revenues follow over time.

This gives a prime example of why government or supra-governmental organisations shouldn't try and pick technology choices. I guess we should be thankful that Reding chooses to standardise things that nobodyreally cares about, rather than the important ones.


Anonymous said...

Nice work Dean. Would like to see Ms Reding explain why neutrality is bad of one service but not another.

Might have something to do with the amount of ca$h Intel put behind selling WiMAX to delegates? hmmmm....

Anyway, I'm much keener on TV as a podcast, both as a consumer and an engineer. I am loving the iPhone's ability to synch and display video podcasts via iTunes, and happily snack away in 5-10 minute bites throughout the commuting day. I'm not subject to network capacity or coverage variances either. And my MNO must be happy that I'm not loading their network at peak times.

BBC via iTunes will take off, but only when it's free. Can't wait.


Edsard said...

Good point Mike.
And as always, Dean, you make a great point.
One questions though...

In both your views, do you believe this to be a general world view or could it (Mobile TV) be more popular in other areas around the world?

What are your thoughts on this?

Kind regards,

For example, and I truly have no way of telling whether this is true or not:

I have been told that in Taiwan, Mobile TV is popular on phones. Among other reasons, it seems they offer Major League Baseball on phones (Mobile TV). Something about some Taiwanese pitcher being very popular.