July 24th, 2007

DVB-H – Pulling the Plug on Modeo

Crown Castle sold its DVB-H (mobile TV) spectrum to a private group this week, and in doing so, “pulled the plug” on its mobile video service offering. (See Moco article)

See my earlier post: “Nail in the coffin for DVB-H in the US” from 02/07. (post)

The announcement comes at an interesting time as Hiwire (Modeo’s DVB-H competition in the US) just announced the launch of their trials in Las Vegas. There clearly isn’t enough demand for broadcast video services on mobile devices in the US in the year 2007 to support two nationwide networks. Hiwire doesn’t plan to build out their infrastructure until they have a commitment from a service provider.

My understanding was that Crown Castle didn’t have the spectrum they needed for a national service depending on how you define national – most do in terms of top markets covered. If they hadn’t sold their spectrum and this market were further along, I think we would have been looking at an XM/Sirius situation – and we still may be longer term.

The spectrum isn’t only suited for mobile video. I think there are some analogies here that can be taken from other new wireless networks. Public Wi-Fi, for example, can’t fund itself solely from public access from consumers. It needs many revenue streams as there isn’t a single dominant use case – there isn’t one large enough customer base that can support the infrastructure costs. Owners of this spectrum will either need to have a lot of patience (and money) to wait for demand for mobile video to develop or they will need to launch other services (and audio is already announced) to fund the cost.

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