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Mobile TV exec foresees content-wireless carrier clash

Posted by iNext - 2006-03-03

DUBLIN, Ireland — Mobile TV, still in its infancy, will grow in three years into a $3 billion market, heavily concentrated among young consumers who will forsake traditional broadcast for specially-tailored content on mobile phones and other devices, Michael Schueppert, president of Modeo, told the DVB World Forum on Wednesday (March 1). Among Schuppert’s top ten predictions for mobile TV was his declaration that mobile phones, now seen as the overwhelming focus of mobile broadcast developers, will serve only half the market. Fifty percent of consumers in this market, he said, will prefer "a much broader range of devices than just cellphones."

Perhaps Schueppert’s safest forecast was that the biggest battles over mobile TV in the next three years won’t be over competing technologies, but will instead pit broadcast content owners against the wireless carriers who own the mobile customer base. "There is a chance that peace will break out. We’ve tried," said Schueppert. "But I think it’s more likely to be a fight than a harmonious relationship."

Among Schueppert’s other predictions were the emergence of peaceful coexistence in standard and proprietary mobile TV broadcast specs and media codecs.

Schueppert noted that both DVB-H and Qualcomm-developed MediFLO will succeed, but the Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB)-based mobile TV broadcast standard will be a "dead end."

He also predicted that two competing media codecs—Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Media Audio/Video formats and H.264/aacPlus—won’t be harmonized. He said, "It is technically, politically and commercially impossible to harmonize these formats, [but] it really isn’t worth trying."

Schueppert also stressed the growth of podcasting as a major medium for mobile television. To do this, devices will require implementation of file delivery protocols, the inclusion of at least a gigabit of memory or an SD card slot and the ability to receive two services simultaneously.

Schueppert's top ten list for mobile TV developments follows:

1) Although DVB-Handheld, or DVB-H, will triumph internationally as the dominant mobile broadcast standard, Qualcomm's MediaFLO spec will also succeed. Other competing standards, including DAB "will fail" for lack of industry support.

2) Modeo’s prescient use of L-band spectrum will be imitated by more operators in Europe and Asia, partly because UHF spectrum is so heavily overburdened. There is also a growing trend among semiconductor makers to develop chips that also support L-band broadcast.
3) Mobile broadcasts will end up with two media formats, the proprietary Windows Media Format from Microsoft and the open-standard H.264. Both will have to be supported by device manufacturers.

4) The current plethora of electronic service guides, in competing formats, will experience a drastic shakeout. This “unnecessary” array of program guides confuses the market. They must be “harmonized” or eliminated by the end of this year.

5) Podcasting will become a key part of the mobile TV experience, and it will eventually be supported by all devices.

6) Although mobile TV promises to be a windfall for the mobile phone market, there are millions of cellphone users who just want to talk. That means 50 percent of mobile TV consumers will be using other devices, and these must be ready to receive video content.

7) Voting via "live" contact with a broadcast program, will be the most powerful interactive feature on mobile TV.

8) The youth market (ages 18-35) will be the grand prize—and virtually the only prize—for mobile TV.

9) By 2009, every major TV broadcast channel will launch mobile-specific versions of their programming, designed for viewers who prefer to watch TV in short clips.

10) Finally, Schueppert foresaw the already brewing clash between content owners and wireless carriers. He expressed optimism that this "fight" will be partly settled by the upcoming international spectrum auctions.

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