Comment: Mobile TV is heading for a fall
By Paul Trotter
Posted on 14 Jul 2006 at 11:11
Is anyone, apart from those who stand to reap the financial rewards, really getting excited about mobile phone TV? It's a potentially enormous breakthrough for media on the move, and yet I'm still to meet anyone willing to show off the technology. Even mobile phone outlets don't seem to want to educate customers about it.
This is despite the fact that operators O2, Orange, 3 and Vodafone are investing heavily in the newest ruse to increase our monthly payments, while the BBC, ITV and Sky see live mobile TV as the new frontier for squeezing extra viewing minutes out of us each day.
On paper, mobile TV is an operator's dream: it makes each one of the millions of subscribers nationwide a potential premium customer every time there's a big sporting event, a major news story or even just a spare five minutes.
Unlike most technology breakthroughs, this particular one seems to be coming sooner than most people anticipated. But with the World Cup drawing attention to the mobile industry, dazzling new designs being launched in Asia and constant talk of the new
frontier for broadcasting, are we being hoodwinked by headlines promising a technology that's actually years away from being ready for the mainstream?
Well, some people are already viewing TV on their mobiles. Orange and Vodafone have been offering a live mobile TV service of sorts for months, while O2 has been testing one on a limited scale for some time and is claiming positive results.
More than 80 per cent of the guinea pigs on O2's Oxford trials said they were at least satisfied with the service, while more than 70 per cent said they'd be willing to take up the full service within one year of its prospective launch (although O2 neglected to mention the price the trialists would be willing to pay).
The operator also offered some interesting statistics concerning usage patterns: it was no surprise that, over the course of the trial, 37 per cent of the mobile TV minutes were consumed during the commute to work.
But 32 per cent of the time that trialists spent watching TV on their mobiles was accounted for when they were in their own homes.
As you'd expect, the big broadcasters in the UK have already underlined their intentions to get a large slice of this lucrative pie. Sky has taken an early lead by offering a free service (at least initially), while the BBC and ITV are said to be planning a trial service to run for the remainder of this year. The pair have a rumoured £10-per-month subscription service that will offer a selection of mainstream channels.
But this could be exactly the sort of pre-launch propaganda that sets over-excited early adopters up for a fall. There's limited evidence to show the technology is ready to offer a quality of service people are coming to expect of the next generation of mobile phones.
Plus, there's no magic solve-all chip that means these devices don't have to abide by the laws of every other mobile on the market - battery life, drop-outs and low-screen resolutions will still be an issue. Whereas in the living room you have an unlimited
power supply, a direct cable or satellite connection and a huge television, TV-enabled mobile phones have to use the same tiny batteries and power-hungry backlit LCDs we've been using for sending texts.
Even if operators overcome these technical shortcomings, they still have to worry about licensing the content that will attract and maintain the customer base. Getting rights holders on board is something that's troubled the BBC with its Integrated Media
- Is it worth upgrading a media centre to Windows 8?
- Flickr redesign: is it enough to tempt photographers back?
- Hands on with the new Google Maps
- Nokia Lumia 925 review: first look
- Why I won't subscribe to Creative Cloud
- GoPro camera strapped to a remote-control helicopter: the ultimate boy's toy
- Acer Iconia A1 review: first look
- Acer Aspire P3 review: first look
- Acer Aspire R7 review: first look
- How we produce the PC Pro podcast
- The ICO's shame-faced u-turn on cookies
- Start8 and ModernMix: making Windows 8 work on a desktop
- How to boost your mobile reception
- How to fix Facebook: Social Fixer
- Taking the stress out of WordPress updates
- Where to download free web fonts
- Turn your tablet into a Sky+ remote control
- How to measure the success of a new IT system
- Three years on: the state of the tablet market
- Windows 8: what works and what doesn't