[Digital Broadcasters Vendor News Asia] has learned that Mobile TV took centre-stage at the opening of the BroadcastAsia 2006 conference in Singapore on June 20, with an entire session dedicated to this important sector.
Clive Morton, Broadcast Services Director of [Broadcast Australia], explored the future directions--and challenges--for mobile television. Broadcast Australia is a 100% owned subsidiary of Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group, an entity listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX code: MCG)
In his address entitled ‘The future of handheld services’, Morton drew on Broadcast Australia’s extensive mobile television trial experience to reflect on the industry’s progress thus far, and what might lie ahead. He emphasised that while much ground had been made in overcoming the technical challenges facing mobile TV, a great deal more was required to turn the technology into a global business success.
He pointed to a ‘new-for-2006’ [Emmy Award] category that is specifically for television programming created for mobile devices, which enjoyed the most entries of any Emmy Award category this year.
“The addition of this new category shows that the all-powerful Hollywood machine has sanctioned the concept of mobile TV,” Morton said. While he believes this is a significant milestone, there is a long journey ahead to transform it into the ‘next killer application’.
He cited collaboration--specifically between traditional industry competitors and commercial stakeholders--as the crucial ingredient in catalysing this transformation.
“Last year’s BroadcastAsia conference closed by saying that mobile broadcasting was emerging as a key trend; one year on, we can see that mobile broadcasting has, indeed, emerged,” Morton said. He emphasised that the future of handheld services depended on a potent mix of technology, devices, creativity, government, business, and-- the most volatile of all elements--people.
“If carriers, content creators and media outlets battle each other for ownership of the customer, then someone will be giving a very similar presentation like this next year, because we won’t have progressed!” he warned. “For mobile television to reach its full potential, we need the lawyers, politicians and business executives to develop a true environment of collaboration--this will determine the future of mobile television.”
Morton listed a number of challenges ahead for regional and global mobile television. These include resolving the choices in technology and technology platform (including handsets); untangling the complex issues of content rights and regulatory issues in the new mobile TV age; determining and addressing issues of consumer behaviour and needs; and most importantly, determining an effective mobile TV business model.
On the issue of mobile TV technology platform options, Morton outlined the increasingly complex task of standardising the wide range mobile TV platforms now available, including DVB-H, T-DMB, MediaFLO and ISDB-T. He emphasised that while multi-standard capable handsets might be a long-term solution, in the short-term it is vital to factor in the expectations of the modern subscriber. “Mobile telephony users expect to use at least GSM, SMS and GPRS wherever they travel. What a shame it would be if mobile phones roam almost anywhere in the world, but the mobile TV service cannot!” he said.
He warned that a world sporting a ‘patchwork quilt’ of mobile TV technologies that vary from country-to-country and region-to-region will result in major interoperability issues. “Ultimately, there needs to be convergence on a single interoperable specification to create a truly global mobile TV market, as there has been with other DVB equipment,” he said.