Out of hype cycle and into hypercurve?

Mobile TV is poised to take off next year, predicts Azzedine Boubguira, DiBcom VP of marketing and business development.

"We believe the hockey stick effect will happen around the end of 2009," he said. Still, he acknowledged that mobile TV reality hasn't lived up to the rosy forecasts of industry boosters.

"People wanted mobile TV overnight, but it's a complicated ecosystem," he said. "You have to answer questions like who pays for what, the business models, the encryption technology — these things have all slowed the market.

"Now we have the standards, spectrum availability," he said. "With the [analog TV] switch off next year, frequencies will be available. The encryption standard has been defined. The technology exists — it's not a matter of technology."

The business model for mobile TV is still an open question: free-to-air or pay TV? Boubguira foresees a combination of free and pay models.

"The two can succeed," Boubguira said. "Japan and Korea are free to air. In Europe, they're talking about subscriptions for €3-€6 per month. Then, there’s the number of channels — the choice is what's going to make mobile TV technology succeed or fail."

Satellite mobile TV, slated to come online in 2009 via the recently launched ICO G1 satellite, will further drive the mobile TV market.

"For a large country like the U.S., it's costly to cover the whole country with antennas," he said. "That's where satellite comes in. Satellite mobile TV is what was chosen in China because of the size of the country. And satellite works in the 2GHz spectrum, which is more available than UHF. That lets you launch services quicker."

It all sounds good, but what are the mobile TV facts on the ground? Boubguira sees reasons for optimism there as well. "In France, there was an auction for 13 channels," he said. "There were 36 applications. It shows there is really interest from the industry."