Mobile Video

Dish Preps for Mobile TV

Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) appears ready to capitalize on its 168 E-block wireless spectrum licenses, a $711.8 million asset, as the company announced today that it will begin testing digital video broadcasting from satellite to handhelds (DVB-SH) in the United States. (See AlcaLu Tests With Dish.)

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) will be providing the DVB-SH equipment, test tools, and training while the trials will take place in Dish’s Atlanta laboratories from May to August 2008. DVB-SH can be used on any spectrum below 3 GHz.

Dish isn’t providing any additional information beyond that. Whether the company plans to run a mobile TV service over its own network, how it plans to deliver that content to handsets, what wireless carriers it might work with, and the technology used are all issues that are yet to be determined or at least disclosed by the satellite TV operator.

But Dish's desire to expand beyond its core business and into wireless services is obvious. “They’re spending a lot of money to get into wireless video,” says Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick. “Satellite guys in general need to do something beyond sending signals into people’s living rooms, and Dish has been pretty aggressive with that.”

Including its recent wireless spectrum acquisition, Dish has invested over a billion dollars in wireless video. It acquired Sling Media Inc. for $380 million and invested in Archos, the company that makes its portable DVR product. (See Dish to Serve Mobile Video? and EchoStar to Buy Sling Media.)

The technology being tested appears to be an alternative to Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)’s MediaFLO kit. MediaFLO USA Inc. technology is currently used by Verizon Wireless for its VCAST mobile entertainment service. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has announced that it will use the technology as well. (See AT&T Intros Mobile TV and Tech Roundup: Verizon Goes MediaFLO.) But Dish is not commenting on whether it will compete with MediaFLO or whether or not this trial with Alcatel-Lucent will eventually turn into an actual service offering.

The timing would be ideal. If Dish finds the trial to be a success, it could have a service launched by the time its newly acquired wireless spectrum becomes available for use in February 2009 -- when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that all broadcast stations stop broadcasting in analog form and go exclusively digital.

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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