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Mobile TV Broadcast Slow, Steady Progress

The worldwide mobile TV broadcast market is expanding, as the number of commercially launched mobile TV broadcast networks will grow from 9 in 2006 to 13 in 2007, reports In-Stat.

The current unavailability of wireless spectrum is the largest barrier to the launch of more mobile TV services, particularly in Europe, the high-tech market research firm says.

Over the next 10 years, as more spectrum is made available -- in many cases when analog TV signals are shut off -- more mobile TV broadcast services will launch. Another issue limiting the market today is the small number of mobile TV broadcast enabled handsets available in many markets.

While I recognize that most market research studies have uncovered inconsistent demand for mobile TV services, perhaps it's too soon in the process of market development to form conclusive opinions about what works well, and why. In a time of exploratory trials, it's expected that some business models will show promise, while others do not.

Mobile TV trials will likely result in one high-profile effort being curtailed or shut down, and that's to be expected. The current hype around the offering reminds me of the early days of Wi-Fi in the U.S. market. In a column entitled "Wi-Fi's Rich Carrier Future" I wrote about the demise of Cometa Networks in 2004, and why I wasn't fatalistic -- like most other analyst assessments of that time.

My point: if most mobile phone service subscribers continue to show little interest in today's mobile TV offerings, then maybe there should be more new ideas being tested that don't assume that the mobile TV user experience should be just like traditional television, only on a much smaller screen.

As an example, if mobile service providers can reflect upon the apparent distinction -- that a mobile phone is a personal device belonging to an individual -- then perhaps they can re-imagine the notion of what constitutes a useful television channel guide.

So, instead of thinking about merely broadcasting the lowest common denominator content as being "the service," they can focus more on how to personalize the user experience. Granted, designing adaptable user experiences isn't considered part of the typical mobile carrier's forte, regardless, I'm strongly suggesting that it should be.

In-Stat's study found the following:

- Mobile TV broadcast subscribers will reach 125 million worldwide in 2011.

- Asia continued to have the greatest number of mobile TV broadcast subscribers through 2006.

- Mobile TV broadcast standards are proliferating, with the most recent being those suggested for the ATSC standard.

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