& the GII
page considers 'mobile television', in particular video
content broadcast to mobile handsets.
It covers -
supplements the discussion of publishing and networks.
The following page considers questions about business
models, media spin, forecasts regarding adult mobile video
and the shape of future mobile tv devices.
In principle it is possible to deliver video content to
a range of wireless devices - including traditional television
receivers, wireless laptops,
wireless PDAs and mobile
phones. Traditional demarcations between devices have
blurred in recent years, with phones for example being
marketed as PDAs, PDAs offering a wireless email capability
and some consumers using wireless connectivity for access
to the net while away from the office. Others have loaded
video recordings from personal computers onto iPods
or other devices for viewing while on public transport,
waiting at airports, while with mates at the pub or in
a university lecture.
In practice there is disagreement about standards for
delivery of that content (should it be accessible on any
device or only on particular formats?) and about markets.
Much of the literature - and most investment - centres
on mobile television as "transmission of audiovisual
content to a mobile device", a device such as a PDA
or mobile phone handset that has a small screen (and is
thus different to the large screen and larger memory found
on a laptop).
Enthusiasts and anxious bureaucrats have characterised
mobile tv as "the next wave", with the European
Commission in 2007 for example claiming that the technology
has the potential to change profoundly the way in which
consumers experience television and audiovisual services.
It offers the possibility of viewing any content, any
time, anywhere, and also provides for a new world of
interactivity, where traditional and on-demand creative
content consumption is supplemented by services tailored
to the needs and tastes of each consumer. Mobile TV
is at the crossroads of two powerful social trends,
greater mobility and new forms of accessing media content.
It therefore could become one of the next high-growth
consumer technologies. By bringing together personal
mobile communications, one of the most dynamic of European
markets, and audiovisual content, Mobile TV is at the
frontier of high-value, innovative services. Estimates
indicate that by 2011 this could be a market between
€7 billion and €20 billion, reaching between
200 million and 500 million customers worldwide.
expectations have been reflected in substantial investment
by network operators and content providers, although as
noted in the following page the results of that investment
have been disappointing and some major organisations have
withdrawn from the market.
Expectations have also been reflected in a range of forecasts
by commercial soothsayers, including predictions that
adult content will be the "main driver of third-generation
(3G) mobile services demand" and that mobile video
will be a US$22 billion market by 2010.
That enthusiasm is reminiscent of claims that broadband
over powerline (BPL) or
the internet fridge will
inevitably gain substantial market share. It is challenged
by the commercial difficulties facing some mobile tv service
providers and by the underwhelming uptake of past miniature
television receivers (such as the Walkman-style device
marketed by Sony in the 1990s).
That has led some observers to argue that -
people in fact do not want to watch much video on the
little screen even if the content is available, consistent
with research on accessibility
most useful model for m-tv is mtv: short news and sports
clips with an emphasis on audio or on close-ups of key
action (such as a catch at an international cricket
match) rather than on transmission of The Seventh
Seal, Cries & Whispers or Gone
With The Wind
market for mobile tv erotica may centre on 'naughty'
screensavers for the 'lads' market' rather than extended
Mobile television delivery (ie transmission of audiovisual
content to the mobile device) can take different forms,
have typically distinguished between broadcast ('one to
many') and unicast ('one to one') mobile tv services that
are downloaded to a device for subsequent viewing or that
are watched as they are transmitted.
Given that the content is digital it can be delivered
using 3G mobile (cellular) phone networks, by digital
terrestrial broadcast systems or by satellite. It may
be downloaded from the net for later display (and recurrent
replay) on a PDA or similar device rather than a phone.
Traditional programmes - notably news and weather - are
normally broadcast; unicasts include live video or 'time-shifted'
(ie recorded) on demand transmissions that range from
video podcasts to 'music
video' clips and movies. Timeshifting may involve short
clips from a network operator or its associate (eg music
videos), a movie or television programme from a network
operator's associate, or a multimedia message service
(MMS) recording from
one user of a network to that person's contacts.
The experience of viewing live or recorded video on a
mobile phone screen is affected by user expectations,
the nature of the content and the characteristics of the
Uptake by consumers has been inhibited by visibility and
quality of service problems such as -
movies for example were intended for viewing on a "one
inch square screen", so that users miss some aspects
(even if using a high resolution screen and a magnifying
glass) and may experience problems with dark scenes,
poor contrast or wrong colours
some television broadcasts do not fill the entire screen
on particular phones
images are highly pixellated, particularly if camera
angles change or the characters move too quickly
LCD on some phone screens darken while viewing of the
content is underway (a common feature to conserve battery
life), with users having to adjust the device's settings
to ensure a continuously bright screen when viewing
problems (akin to those found in much online video)
with the movie starting and stopping several times when
the data stream cannot keep up or simply freezing and
has also been inhibited by the lack of much content, particularly
content repackaged for mobile devices.
There is contention about how many people in particular
markets are engaging with mobile television (particularly
on an ongoing and intensive basis) and whether the mobile
tv population will grow. Some audience research challenges
are discussed as part of a more detailed note elsewhere
on this site.
As of 2007 the size of the mobile television population
across the world remains low, because of factors such
of commercial content
of infrastructure (including handsets, servers and the
of service problems (where for example the infrastructure
is available but transmissions fall over)
unhappiness with the viewing experience
the US research firm Telephia claimed
in 2006 that there were 3.7 million mobile television
subscribers. Jupiter Research's Video on Cell Phones
report from that year claimed that 25% of people would
be interested in mobile television services but only 1%
would be willing to pay for them.
That figure is consistent with studies in Europe and Australia
where consumers have essentially indicated that mobile
tv is "a nice idea" but not so nice that they
would pay for the immediate access to content that can
be viewed later without payment on free-to-air broadcast
tv or on the net using a user-friendly monitor. As noted
in the following page, Virgin Mobile abandoned its UK
broadcast mobile TV service during 2007 after gaining
under 20,000 subscribers. US infrastructure giant Crown
Castle International similarly dumped Modeo, its mobile
TV network, after lack of consumer and partner interest
Telephia's 2006 Mobile Video Diary Report claimed
that 30% of its consumers reported watch mobile television
between 12 pm and 4 pm; 31% watched between 4 pm and 8
pm. 22% of viewing happened while the consumers were at
home, 22% while commuting (hopefully not while driving
a car), 16% while shopping and 14% while at work.
What they were watching, why they were watching and whether
they were recurrently watching is more problematical.
The mobile television industry is bedevilled by hype from
enthusiasts, disagreement about what devices consumers
will use (discussed in more detail in the following page)
and uncertainty about standards.
Unicasting has largely used existing mobile networks (2.5
or 3G/UMTS) to deliver content to mobile devices, in particular
to mobile phones. There is more disagreement about mechanisms
for broadcast mobile television, with competition between
(Digital Video Broadcast transmission to Handheld terminals),
based on the DVB-T standard (used for non-mobile digital
terrestrial television in the EU)
(Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) based
on T-DAB standards
(Media Forward Link Only)
(a hybrid satellite/terrestrial system)
has led to delays in decisionmaking by regulators (understandably
reluctant to enshrine a standard that is specific to the
particular jurisdiction or an individual solutions provider,
replaying past problems with terrestrial digital broadcast
tv), content production and uptake by network operators
Regulation varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, reflecting
each nation's regime for -
of spectrum (in particular licensing of uses for 3G
of audiovisual broadcasting
protection (eg subscription to 'premium
use of networks (eg restrictions on making threats via
a phone to another consumer)
'content & carriage' restrictions (eg transmission
of child pornography).
content providers have thus been fined by regulators for
broadcasting offensive content in breach of censorship
codes. There have been a succession of prosecutions in
Australia and elsewhere of individuals who have made and
shared unauthorised video
or who have been found to have child porn on their phones
A 2003 European Commission study on Mobile Entertainment
in Europe: Current State of the Art (PDF)
reflected disagreement about demand, pricing, regulatory
frameworks and costs. There is a more upbeat view in Convergence
Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York:
New York University Press 2006) by Henry Jenkins and Cell
Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life
(London: Routledge 2006) by Gerard Goggin.
For technical introductions see Converged Multimedia
Networks (New York: Wiley 2006) by Juliet Bates,
Chris Gallon, Matthew Bocci et al, Wireless Communications:
The Future (New York: Wiley 2007) by William Webb
and Streaming and Digital Media: Understanding the
Business and Technology (New York: Focal Press 2007)
by Dan Rayburn.
(mobile tv business and futures)