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China Mobile favored to win in China's mobile TV market

China's three telecom operators are racing to gain an edge for their CMMB mobile TV services, but analysts and consumers are placing their bets on China Mobile to be the long-term winner in the Chinese mobile TV market, reports Interfax-China's Hua Jinglei.

The Chinese government's preference for TD-SCDMA as a 3G standard and CMMB as a mobile TV standard will drive China Mobile's mobile TV business, according to Michael Chang, an industry analyst with market research firm In-Stat.

"It is the Chinese government's wish to develop CMMB mobile TV. At present, only TD-SCDMA+CMMB mobile phones can obtain network access licenses from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), which gives China Mobile a head start in CMMB mobile TV operation," he says.

In May, China Mobile signed the first deal with China Satellite Mobile Broadcasting (CSMB), the national operator of CMMB, giving the carrier's CMMB-enabled handsets access to the CMMB network, according to Shen Hongbin, general manager of TiMi Technology, a chip manufacturer and the developer of CMMB.

As well as reaching a deal with CSMB to allow their handsets to include CMMB functionality, telecom operators will also need to reach agreements with local CMMB network operators to give their customers access. Again, China Mobile is ahead in this respect, having already sealed a deal with Shenzhen Media Group, one of the largest media groups in China and the exclusive CMMB operator in Shenzhen City in Guangdong Province.

The deal combines mobile phone, broadband Internet, wireless Internet and digital TV services, as well as a planned mobile newspaper and other value-added services that will be delivered through China Mobile's 3G TD-SCDMA network, according to Zhang Chunlang of Shenzhen Media Group. "It is the first time a Chinese telecom operator has cooperated with a media group over 3G-based new media," he says.

In another deal, China Mobile and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) are in talks about jointly launching netbooks with TD-SCDMA and CMMB technology, the first batch of which will be released between July and September this year, a source at China Mobile told Interfax.

China Unicom, which recently began its CMMB mobile TV trial, isn't far behind its rival and shouldn't be discounted, according to In-Stat's Chang. Its WCDMA network and 3G streaming mobile TV services are competitive. However, the government's stance, which favors both TD-SCDMA and CMMB, adds an element of uncertainty to China Unicom's chances in the mobile TV field.