Japan Sets Mobile TV Pace, Seeks Standard
According to the report, entitled "Mobile Video Services: A Five-Year Global Market Forecast," Japan already has an established user base, with 22 million regular users of mobile video services generating revenues of about $2 billion in 2008. Of those users, 16.4 million had signed up to mobile TV subscription packages.
But despite the large number of users, the report highlights the need for an improved broadcast-based mobile TV system that would enable the mobile operators to build more effective mobile TV businesses.
Japan's current mobile broadcast TV services are delivered, with no charge to the end user, over a mobile spectrum segment of terrestrial broadcast technology, ISDB-T, to a dedicated receiver in mobile devices.
Japan's three leading operators -- KDDI Corp. , NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), and SoftBank Corp. -- all offer the service, and two thirds of all new terminals sold into the market have receivers. As such, they have established the popularity of services but also set pricing expectations among users.
The three operators also offer unicast video streaming and download services over their 3G networks. These include everything from sports content and news clips to episodes of TV shows and even live events and movies. These are data-hungry services delivered at relatively low prices. For example, DoCoMo's Vlive service, which delivers unicast live events and movies to users with the carrier's 3G FOMA handsets, costs $1.95 per month.
All three operators are therefore pushing for the introduction of dedicated broadcast technologies. This would enable them to provide the quality and content differentiation that the report highlights as important for future growth. It would also relieve pressure on their mobile networks, freeing up capacity for other data services, such as WAP/Internet browsing, ringtones, and music, which make up two thirds of Japan's data revenues.
Unfortunately, the operators cannot agree on the preferred technology. KDDI and Softbank prefer Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s MediaFlo, while DoCoMo prefers the home-grown ISDB-Tmm, an offshoot of ISDB-T.
Each carrier is building support from vendors and content owners, but, the report suggests, the regulator could cut the battle short, as it is considering allowing the operators to pick their own technologies.
— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading