Mobile Video

Seeking 3G Alternatives for Mobile TV

1:30 PM -- Mobile TV is trucking along slowly in the US, but it won't really take off until it gets off the 3G network.

WiFi could be the interim solution, but that's not a sustainable one either, according to Juniper Research Ltd. ’s latest report. Juniper finds that mobile TV traffic over WiFi will increase 25-fold between 2010 and 2015. Apps riding over free WiFi will also drive mobile TV market revenues to nearly $7 billion by 2015.

While WiFi is helping expedite the market, it can't eliminate the 3G strain as more and more users tune in, says report author Windsor Holden. (See World Cup Update: US Out, Mobile TV Up , Sprint Touts Cheap Mobile TV on WiMax & 3G , and 5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps.)

Holden says Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks will help lessen the impact of the traffic, but tapping unpaired spectrum -- as Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), Salt SA , and Telefónica UK Ltd. are doing in their Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB) trials in Europe -- will also be important.

The carriers’ three-month pilot uses shared network infrastructure to deploy mobile broadcast services over relatively unused 3G Time Division Duplex spectrum. According to the carriers, this spectrum is open to 150 operators spanning 60 countries and more than half a billion subscribers.

Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) suggested another 3G conservation option at its Uplinq conference last week. Its mobile TV division, FLO TV, is pitching data-casting, a technology that broadcasts IP data without using the 3G network, as a way to relieve traffic. Operators could broadcast multimedia products like magazines or even entire TV shows in off-peak times in an on-demand, off-network format. It won't replace streaming live TV, Qualcomm says, but it will be important to making mobile TV a sustainable service. (See Qualcomm Open to Selling FLO TV Unit.)

Mobile video seems to have taught the industry that 3G isn’t sufficient for high-data traffic and that LTE might not be either. If mobile TV does, in fact, become as big as mobile video, in terms of data usage and traffic, it’s smart that carriers are already exploring their options.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:30:45 PM
re: Seeking 3G Alternatives for Mobile TV

Operators will have tools at their disposal to gate unwanted content, whether their customers like it or not. The question will come down to whether operators are able to figure out what they want to do in this space and then follow their thought-out plan, rather than get pulled along in a current that may overwhelm them.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:30:45 PM
re: Seeking 3G Alternatives for Mobile TV

With the exception of for the World Cup and other live/sporting events, I don't think carriers have done much to promote mobile TV as a mass-market app yet. But, it could be a significant revenue generator for them, with most services charging around $10 per month for the service.It's also something that, like video, will be used on their network whether they like it or not through apps and over-the-top downloads. I think they're interested in it for the revenue potential and the potential of these offload strategies to support it. The OMVC's initiative in the US is another example of a service that doesn't run on 3G - it is free in this case though.

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:30:45 PM
re: Seeking 3G Alternatives for Mobile TV

Hi, Sarah -- If, as you imply, LTE may not be able to handle mobile TV as a mass-market app, then should mobile TV even be pursued as a mass-market app at this point? You have to wonder what the payoff is for network operators that now face the prospect of even higher infrastructure investment to deliver a service that may not generate enough revenue to justify that spend.

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:30:40 PM
re: Seeking 3G Alternatives for Mobile TV

And yet, as Sarah notes, the immediate attention is being placed on massive live sporting events -- the kind of thing that will put the network under the greatest stress.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:30:40 PM
re: Seeking 3G Alternatives for Mobile TV

Qualcomm's approach -- loading up devices while they're not in active use -- is interesting. But I think the ability to store and carry shows and share them between devices is way more compelling than a streamed TV service.

AT&T and others are tinkering with ways to load a DVR-recorded program onto your mobile device via your home's WiFi network. That kind of service/app combo would be much more interesting knowing the network limitations that might hamper live TV.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:30:39 PM
re: Seeking 3G Alternatives for Mobile TV

I know, it's an odd choice. There are so many compelling episodic dramas and reality shows now that it seems reasonable that a wider audience of TV viewers would appreciate getting their shows on their device so they could watch them on their schedule.


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