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MetroPCS Kicks Off Mobile DTV in the US

Sarah Thomas
1/4/2012
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Mobile digital TV has been a nonstarter in the U.S., but MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) is taking the first step toward changing that with its Dyle Mobile TV service, announced Wednesday.

Through a partnership with Mobile Content Venture (MCV), the regional carrier will offer a live, local broadcast app loaded on an Android-based, Long Term Evolution (LTE) Samsung Corp. smartphone with a Samsung tuner built in. The phone, the first in the U.S. to support local DTV, will launch later this year, but will be on display at next week's Consumer Electronics Show.

The Dyle Mobile TV service relies on ATSC-Mobile technology, championed by the Open Mobile Video Coalition and supported by 15 major broadcast groups. The companies say the service will be available at launch on more than 72 stations in 32 markets, although the number of stations available in each market will vary. (See CES 2011: Mobile DTV Ready for Prime Time?)

Why this matters
Mobile TV hasn't exactly been a popular service in the U.S., where high-profile failures like Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s FLO TV dominate headlines. But, mobile DTV has some distinct advantages. One, it doesn't rely on the cellular phone network, instead repurposing broadcast spectrum, so there's no danger of running up wireless data charges.

Second, broadcast TV is the content that consumers already enjoy in their living rooms. And, third, it's low-cost ... potentially. Salil Dalvi, co-general manager of the MVC and SVP of digital distribution at NBC Universal , says any number of business models are possible, including ad-supported or freemium. MetroPCS will announce its pricing closer to launch.

The service is not, however, without its challenges. Chipsets to embed the technology are expensive, consumer demand is currently low and it requires wireless operator support to embed the tuners and promote the service. But, MetroPCS getting on board is an important first step, and Product Manager Stephen Jemente says it's the perfect complement to the on-demand services carriers already offer.

"We closely track what our consumers are doing on our handsets and we know they are consuming digital media and video," he says. "We bring them video on-demand over Wi-Fi, and that's very successful. What could be more complementary than broadcast that's live?" For more



— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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sarahthomas1011
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sarahthomas1011,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:46:42 PM
re: MetroPCS Kicks Off Mobile DTV in the US


The partnership between MetroPCS and the broadcasters is also interesting given the wireless operators' interest in acquiring spectrum from the broadcasters. I wonder if this will help or hinder future partnerships between the two industries.

kaps
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kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:46:41 PM
re: MetroPCS Kicks Off Mobile DTV in the US


While I like the idea of broadcast TV to a phone I have to ask: What is the compelling content that requires mobile viewing? Maybe something time-sensitive like breaking news or traffic, but the metrics aren't there to support the production of that content on the back end.


Sports is an obvious choice but good luck negotiating the rights to allow anything worthwhile to get to the platform. It seems like this idea is a good place to ask whether mobile DTV is something you would use while mobile -- moving -- or while you were nomadic, say with a tablet or laptop at a coffee shop. You can't legally consume TV broadcasts while driving, so -- I think Mobile DTV will be a non-starter until it arrives on tablets/laptops with some agreements to get compelling content, like ESPN. That means the cablecos need to be a part of this discussion.

kaps
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kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:46:41 PM
re: MetroPCS Kicks Off Mobile DTV in the US


While I like the idea of broadcast TV to a phone I have to ask: What is the compelling content that requires mobile viewing? Maybe something time-sensitive like breaking news or traffic, but the metrics aren't there to support the production of that content on the back end.


Sports is an obvious choice but good luck negotiating the rights to allow anything worthwhile to get to the platform. It seems like this idea is a good place to ask whether mobile DTV is something you would use while mobile -- moving -- or while you were nomadic, say with a tablet or laptop at a coffee shop. You can't legally consume TV broadcasts while driving, so -- I think Mobile DTV will be a non-starter until it arrives on tablets/laptops with some agreements to get compelling content, like ESPN. That means the cablecos need to be a part of this discussion.

DCITDave
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DCITDave,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:46:40 PM
re: MetroPCS Kicks Off Mobile DTV in the US


Kaps, the sports argument is a good one. A mass market mobile TV service will only thrive if it can somehow feed a real-time sporting addiction.


That said, I think at the right price point there could be some consumer acceptance if the most basic service or channel lineup is free or ad supported. 


 

kaps
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kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:46:39 PM
re: MetroPCS Kicks Off Mobile DTV in the US


This probably makes more sense for MetroPCS than other carriers since they have said that for 50 percent or more of their customers the handset is their only Internet device. So sure, why not pay a little more for TV if the handset is the only place you can go.


For others -- tablets and laptops are a much better OTT experience. Can't see this becoming mainstream anytime soon.

kaps
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kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:46:39 PM
re: MetroPCS Kicks Off Mobile DTV in the US


This probably makes more sense for MetroPCS than other carriers since they have said that for 50 percent or more of their customers the handset is their only Internet device. So sure, why not pay a little more for TV if the handset is the only place you can go.


For others -- tablets and laptops are a much better OTT experience. Can't see this becoming mainstream anytime soon.

joanengebretson
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joanengebretson,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:46:37 PM
re: MetroPCS Kicks Off Mobile DTV in the US


Hello Sarah-

I think the spectrum question is an interesting one, too. Does ATSC-Mobile use dedicated spectrum that is separate from what broadcasters use for traditional broadcasting to TV sets? If so, whose spectrum is it? If it belongs to the broadcasters, ATSC-Mobile’s success or failure could have a big impact on whether broadcasters will want to keep that spectrum—and how willing they will be to participate in proposed voluntary spectrum auctions.




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