Predictions for mobile TV in 2010

It's that time of year again, when pundits are seized with an irresistible desire to look in their crystal balls and predict the coming year. This, despite the lamentable record of many such predictions; remember Ethernet inventor Robert Metcalfe predicting the immanent collapse – "gigalapse" – of the Internet in 1996?

In that spirit, I must first note market research and consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tomahatsu's January 2009 prediction, "The third screen goes dark: Mobile television loses its reception." Although Deloitte is evidently not ballyhooing this demonstration of its prophetic prowess (the report link returns, "The system cannot find the file specified"), a year ago it was Deloitte's assessment that a "bundle of challenges is likely to reduce new deployment of mobile television services around the world to a trickle…In 2009…five times more mobile television services may be closed than those launched."

However, Deloitte got one thing right, noting that, "one of the few examples of popular demand for mobile television in 2008 was for analog mobile televisions’ handsets, complete with meter-long aerials."

After highlighting the perils of prognostication, you might think I'd avoid it. Yes and no. Instead of reading my own palm or studying my tea leaves, however, I've asked people with real-world experience developing and deploying mobile TV and video to read the stars and tell me what they see. I've organized the following comments in company alphabetical order.

Ramon Cazares, vice president business development, Cresta Technology: One, although ATSC M/H technology works, practical implementations and the right business model won't happen in 2010. Two, CMMB will regain traction in China and adoption will gain momentum throughout 2010. Three, DVB-SH will remain in trial phase with no commercial deployments. Four, a "mobile media center" laptop — featuring global TV reception (PCTV) of all popular TV broadcast standards including ATSC, DVBT, NTSC, PAL, and cable QAM — will be released by a few tier one PC makers.

Sam Blackman, CEO, Elemental Technologies: Mobile screens capable of supporting higher resolutions — such as Zune HD, Droid — are going to drive consumer demand for higher video quality. This will force the adoption of advanced streaming techniques like adaptive bit rate streaming by mobile video providers. Apple's HTTP-adaptive streaming delivery format for the iPhone is the vanguard of this trend, and soon it will be a requirement for all mobile video distribution.
Photo: elemental sam blackman.jpeg

Jay Adrick,vice president broadcast technology, Harris Broadcast Communications: The Q1 OMVC Washington, D.C., Consumer Showcase will end with a successful transition to a commercial service.

Mobile business plans will be a hot topic among broadcast executives. During 2010 there will be several announcements of large regional or national mobile rollouts by groups of broadcasters forming new business entities. Many PBS stations will embrace mobile and will begin a rollout funded by CPB PTFP grants. By the end of 2010, over 120 stations will be on the air with ATSC Mobile DTV and at least eight different brands and/or types of receivers will be commercially available.

Finally, the ATSC will standardize a version of the A/153 standard for full-channel mobile service with no legacy ATSC main channel. This mode will support new mobile delivery services utilizing the ATSC standard in the 700MHz spectrum. And, ATSC will focus on developing Recommended Practices (RPs) to support the mobile rollout and help station engineers to understand the details of mobile broadcast operations.

Steve Tranter, vice president broadband and interactive, NDS Interactive TV: Mobile devices will continue to play a large part in the home-viewing ecosystem in 2010, specifically for side-loading content (and associated business rules) and as a personalized navigation/UI device for discovery and remote program recording.

Because most viewers prefer TV as an entertainment outlet, the progression from traditional TV to hybrid models is an important extension of a familiar experience. Because the set-top box is a trusted device from which content can be distributed legitimately to other devices, it will continue to be central for providing expanded content such as high-definition, niche material, access to foreign languages to viewers.

James Brailean, CEO, PacketVideo: Two major themes for mobile TV will ring true in 2010: quality and convergence. Mobile TV is moving from novelty to essential. Consumers expect operators to offer mobile devices and data services with access to a broad range of video-on-demand and live broadcast content. The quality of the mobile TV service offer will increasingly influence consumers' purchase decisions about mobile phones, netbooks and providers — this has not been case prior to 2010.

In 2010, consumers will continue to use mobile phones in ways they never thought possible. Mobile TV services encourage users to search for new and interesting content. With Wi-Fi readily available on most smart phones, consumers will begin to use phones to discover Web content and "beam it" to connected TVs, game stations and PCs. This new convergence is far more powerful then "three screen" video; it is the beginning of the truly connected home.

Mark Hyland, vice president sales and marketing, QuickPlay Media: This is the year mobile TV will move beyond the smart phone. You can see the beginnings already with connected in-car video services. Netbooks are multiplying, and if the rumors are true, Apple will grace us with a tablet device this year. Not a phone among them. Are these gadgets closer to phones or PCs? It doesn’t matter. This is the flip side of convergence to IP video: the radical “deconvergence” of TV devices into every shape and niche. The challenge for TV service providers is weaving all these new devices seamlessly into existing subscribers’ lives and monthly plans.

My predictions? Analog mobile TV will continue to be big, Telegent will figure out how to receive standard ATSC signals on a moving device, and the IP-centric cabal will discover an exciting new and disruptive wireless technology called broadcasting.