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Mobile TV benefits from US switchover
|16 июня 2009|
It may not have been a practical alternative for viewers staring at blank television screens, but a mobile TV broadcaster was able to switch on nationwide in the US at the weekend as analogue transmitters turned off.
At the same time, organisations representing the elderly and minorities in San Francisco reported fielding hundreds of calls from confused viewers who had lost their pictures and did not know how to receive the new digital channels now being offered by local broadcasters.
The freeing up of channels 54, 55 and 56 in Friday’s long-awaited digital switchover meant FLO TV, an offering for mobile phones from wireless chipmaker Qualcomm, could begin broadcasting immediately on the spectrum.
FLO was also able to launch straightaway in the three other top-ten US markets previously denied it by the blocked-off bandwidth – Boston, Houston and Miami – as mobile TV’s hold in terms of adoption and coverage began to look less patchy.
The service forecasts it will now have access to 100 major markets and more than 200m potential customers by the end of the year.
FLO has spent more than $800m setting up its own national network to broadcast to phones that use special Qualcomm chips, but a rival, MobiTV has been showing strong growth with a service that streams channels over mobile operators’ existing data networks.
It reported 7m subscribers this month, representing 40 per cent growth in the past six months.
Paul Scanlan, co-founder and president, says new devices, cheaper plans and media companies’ increasing interest in the medium are driving growth, compared with MobiTVs early days when it was a “content scavenger”.
“The big drivers are the phones, the performance of the network, the availability of these data plans and the carriers really successfully marketing them now. And a huge driver is the availability of content,” Mr Scanlan says.
While the two competitors offer channels of live news, sport and regular and specialist TV programming for an extra $10 to $15 a month on a mobile phone bill, existing broadcasters have formed the Open Mobile Video Coalition and plan to equip their transmitters to offer free-to-air channels on mobile phones. Tests are planned in Washington DC this summer.
For Bill Stone, president of FLO TV, expansion means establishing FLO TV in other countries and going beyond the mobile phone.
“The next step for us is to get more devices out there and we’re going to have a direct-to-consumer offering,” he says.
That will initially be a small box that can receive its television service and beam it over wi-fi to a device such as an iPhone or iPod touch. Qualcomm’s chips will also be incorporated in in-car entertainment systems and mobile TV could also come to laptops and other handheld devices.
According to the Informa research company, the mobile industry has miscalculated in thinking mobile TV would reach the mass market earlier.
It says revenues should rise from $1.5bn in 2008 to more than $10bn in 2013 although growth in many regions is still fragile.
Japan and South Korea have led in deployment, but Mr Stone says spectrum availability has been problematic in many other countries.
“Here we are off to the races, but in a lot of other countries that’s not the case and there’s a question of who is going to take the step to build the networks out – is it going to be the mobile operators or the broadcasters or a partnership?”
Источник: Financial Times