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Mobile TV, an Industry Already In Crisis?

Although clearly in its infancy the European mobile TV industry is already in crisis, BT Movio’s recent move to cease its service and that supporting Virgin’s Lobster phone less than a year after launch having sold less than 10,000 handsets. Perhaps it’s a technology problem as suggested by the European Union, who recently approved DVB-H as the common pan-European technology for mobile TV.

There are of course fundamental differences between DVB-H technology and the DMB technology as used by BT Movio, however perhaps the fundamental issue facing the mobile TV industry is one of consumer demand.

There are two, connected and as yet unresolved issues facing the mass consumer adoption of mobile TV, being: content and usability.

The re-broadcasting of standard terrestrial television over mobile TV will simply not be compelling enough to drive mass consumer adoption at meaningful price points. This point is directly connected with usability, simple analysis of the way in which consumers use their mobile phone today shows that unless the consumer is sitting down they don’t actually look at their phone.

By performance to date, one feels that the mobile TV industry needs to conduct rather more independent and in-depth consumer research before making investments of hundreds of millions of dollars into technology – even though the European Commission thinks it’s a good pan-European standard.

Furthermore, it is not clear whether the mobile TV industry will be driven by mobile operators, mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) (such as Virgin and BT) or broadcasters (such as Sky).

Written by Andrew White, Partner at Piran Partners LLP, leading consultants to the European telecommunications industry. For further information and our white paper on this subject visit our website.

(c) Piran Partners LLP, 2007.

Andrew White is a founder of Piran Partners LLP, a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) consultancy based in London, who assist both third parties gain MVNO agreements and also wholesale teams within mobile network operators to better support MVNOs.

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