CTIA 2010: Mobile TV Vendors Learn From FLO TV
FLO TV's biggest stumbling points in its direct-to-consumer business were the monthly price tag, the lack of a nationwide network, quality issues, and the requirement for a new, dedicated $249 device. Another fatal flaw was that the service ran on dedicated spectrum, not WiFi, says Juniper Research Ltd. analyst Windsor Holden. Unlike FLO TV competitor MobiTV Inc. , which has spent the past few years growing its business, FLO TV subscribers could only use the service where its spectrum allowed. MobiTV, meanwhile, saw most of its traffic come from WiFi networks. Because of that, plus the hefty bill and focus on live content, the writing has been on the wall for FLO TV for some time, Holden says. (See Seeking 3G Alternatives for Mobile TV and Qualcomm Open to Selling FLO TV Unit.)
"I admit circumstances have gone against [Qualcomm]," Holden says. "The confluence of 3G and WiFi was a fatal blow, given that it enabled MobiTV to ramp up its higher subscriber base that much more."
MobiTV is hoping to extend its success into the living room, hotly contested turf right now. The company is demoing a new service here that will tie together the living room TV-viewing experience with mobile TV.
If it sounds familiar, that's because a number of big names are targeting this same area. Those include Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and the cable and telco service providers themselves through TV Everywhere initiatives. (See Avail-TVN Bankrolls $30M TV Everywhere Play, Open Up & Say: 'TV Everywhere' , and Moto & Verizon Plan TV Tablet.)
But MobiTV has seen a lot of success with live sporting events, so it is extending the reach of the service, but not adding to the cost. For the $10 monthly subscription fee, MobiTV's new service will allow viewers to start a live sporting event on their smartphone, then pause and switch to viewing from the living room without missing a beat. (See World Cup Update: US Out, Mobile TV Up and App Focus: MobiTV’s iPhone Streaming Success .)
Like FLO TV, MobiTV is also a partner to several wireless operators, including Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Verizon Wireless . Most of the company's business comes from these partners, so it's looking to attract more service providers, including cable companies and ISPs that might want to bundle the service.
Free-to-air chips come to the US
Taking a different approach to mobile TV, Siano Mobile Silicon made its US debut today with the SMS1530, a mobile-TV chipset that supports the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) A/153 mobile digital TV standard. The chip, built in conjunction with LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , is optimized to transmit free-to-air TV to handheld devices.
Siano says the chips can also support subscription-based TV, interactive services delivered in real time, new data broadcasting services, or file-based content download for on-demand playback. The chipset maker has been successful in China and Latin America, but this is its first shot at the US market. (See Siano Powers Brazil's Mobile DTV and Siano Unveils Mobile TV Chip.)
The chip is based on the ATSC mobile/handheld new data broadcasting services broadcast standard being championed by the Open Mobile Video Coalition in the US. By the end of this year, there will be around 100 to 150 TV stations across 40 metro markets transmitting in ATSC's A/153 mobile DTV format, according to the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, another OMVC member. That's expected to grow to 500 TV stations across 50 to 70 metro areas, or 65 percent of the US population, by the end of 2011. (See Sprint Touts Cheap Mobile TV on WiMax & 3G .)
The OMVC recently completed consumer trials of its free-to-air mobile TV service with Sprint in Washington, D.C. It will share the results of the trial at this week's CTIA show.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile