According to a report by Cantab Wireless, the number of people receiving mobile TV will reach 472 million by 2013.
The report – ‘Mobile TV: Technologies, Country Cases, and Forecasts for 2009-2013’ – argues that subscriber growth is anticipated to be strongest in Asia at first, especially in Korea and Japan.
From 2010 onwards, Europe and the US are expected to catch up. Especially in Europe, the shortage of radio spectrum before the analogue TV networks shutdown may delay the launch of mobile TV networks in some countries, most importantly in the UK.
Also, from 2012-2013 onwards, mobile phone operators may start providing mobile TV services via upgraded LTE networks, which will offer greatly increased capacity. They will become serious competitors to broadcast TV systems. The current economic slowdown will only have a temporary effect on mobile TV user numbers.
The report includes a review of the various mobile TV standards. However, as the author of the report, Dr Juha Korhonen, points out: ‘Even more important than choosing the right technical standard is choosing the right business model.’
It is not yet obvious on how to make money in the mobile TV business. Various business models have been tried and tested around the world, some successfully and some less so.
Mobile TV business is a contested area between two established businesses, broadcast TV and mobile telephony. TV broadcasters believe that they should be in charge of the mobile TV business because they are familiar with the TV business; they have established relationships with content producers and they also often have access to physical broadcast networks.
Mobile phone operators, on the other hand, know the business of mobile devices. They have distribution channels for mobile TV receivers, which are often integrated into mobile phones, and they have contract and charging relationships with mobile customers.
However, mobile phone operators typically do not have access to content, and moreover, they cannot provide mobile TV to masses via cellular networks since these networks currently lack the necessary capacity to do it. Therefore, both parties need each other and a successful mobile TV system has to find a business model that benefits both parties.
The report argues that in the medium term, broadcast mobile TV systems will be popular. However, in the long run, point-to-point mobile TV channels, delivered via upgraded high-capacity cellular networks, will become a more popular service.