Can Verizon start its own mobile-TV network?

Verizon is making a big move this week — developing its own mobile-TV network. The cellular phone company wants to have this network up and rolling by December of this year. A lot of things need to fall into place, most notably approval from the FCC. But it’s a big step, as well as an important one, as newly minted networks finally start to go mobile.

Mobile TV is much different than cable TV. At home, consumers are used to having hundreds of channels to surf through; mobile TV takes a different route. First of all, it may not need all that extra entertainment. Getting people to latch on to a few favorite channels on their device is hard enough, without overwhelming them with hundreds of options. Verizon has been meeting with content providers and pitching them this new network, and many are warming up to the idea. Networks love being able to reach new viewers, but the delivery plan is an issue. Will it be a set group of channels like it is with cable? Or will it be a la carte, more akin to pay per view or ordering tiers from your local satellite or cable provider?

Technically, for this to happen, Verizon needs more spectrum, so it is proposing to purchase 122 advanced wireless systems (AWS) from spectrum licenses from SpectrumCo, LLC, a joint effort from Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Comcast. Pending FCC approval, the licenses will cost in the neighborhood of $3.6 billion. There are a few issues to be ironed out, however. Some opponents are against the purchase of such a large area of spectrum, citing an unfair advantage. In fact, Verizon recently appeared at Capitol Hill to defend the new initiative. The company is spinning it as consumers are getting more choice and more options than ever.

Another problem is that this new network can and would easily burn though existing customers’ throttled bandwidth for mobile. At a time when carriers are clamping down and counting megabytes like beans, and charging accordingly, the prospect of a large pipeline of video entertainment opening up leads many to wonder how it all will happen.

Verizon has stated that it will double its wireless footprint by the end of the year, so it is obviously in it for the long haul, but the deal is far from a slam dunk. Assurances on many sides will need to be in place for it all to go smoothly. But the bottom line is this is the direction mobile TV is heading in, with networks happening in the palm of your hand, and tiers ordered a la carte for large chunks of entertainment. In the end there will be one thing that is clear, we’ll all have more mobile-TV choices than ever in the next 12 months.