Only phone vendors will cash in from mobile TV: Analyst

STOCKHOLM – European Union support for the DVB-H standard won’t be enough to make mobile TV a success across the continent, according to industry analysts.

Their remarks came this week after the European Commission once again came out in support of the standard, adding it to a list of standards E.U. countries must support and encourage.

But experts still aren’t convinced of the benefits of the technology, and of mobile TV in general. There is still a lack of business models, while consumers are moving away from broadcast TV, experts say.

“The only ones who can make money from mobile TV today are Nokia, and other vendors. Because they can sell network equipment and phones,” said John Strand, mobile analyst at Strand Consulting.

For carriers who want to make money there are a number of stumbling blocks, according to Strand. A lack of working business models is one of the more serious ones. Strand is convinced consumers won’t be willing to pay enough to make up for content costs.

“I have talked to Nokia on several occasions, but it hasn’t convinced me,” Strand said. Martin Gutberlet, research vice-president at Gartner, also does not see a working business.

“What they are trying to do is repackage TV for mobile phones, using the same channels. That’s not what I want. Content needs to be adapted to fit mobile phones, more personalized,” he said. At the same time mobile TV will have to compete for the attention of users with everything from messaging, telephony and Internet-based services like Facebook.

The fact that DVB-H is a broadcast, not on-demand technology, is another potential stumbling block. “Ask any director in the TV world, and they will say that broadcast TV is dead, and that the future is TV on demand. Why would you want bet on a dying technology?” said Strand.

Carriers should look to YouTube for inspiration, according to Gutberlet. “Short clips that last a couple of minutes are perfect for mobile phones,” he said.

Frequencies pose a challenge of a different kind. The E.U. will have to reach a common spectrum for mobile TV use. Opting for a single standard is useless if there is no common spectrum available to deploy it, according to analysts at Ovum. Lack of a common spectrum could lead to interference at borders.

There is also the question what to do with available spectrum, for example the frequencies that become available when analog TV is turned off. That’s still undetermined, and mobile TV will have to compete with digital TV and mobile broadband for that spectrum.

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