January 3rd, 2006

Mobile Video Broadcast

LG and Samsung just announced some of the first DVB-H and MediaFLO handsets for the mobile broadcast TV market yesterday ahead of the opening of CES. Verizon has already announced that they will move forward with MediaFLO while Crown Castle (US vendor for DVB-H) is not yet announced a carrier partner. The launch of broadcast TV/video to mobile handsets should happen in the US in the latter part of 2006 – at least with MediaFLO. This is exciting stuff as the consumers we’ve surveyed indicated more interest in streaming “live” TV than other forms of video content on their cell phones.

This news is exciting and a step towards growing consumer awareness and adoption of mobile video, but there is still a long road ahead for the carriers. Current adoption of mobile video is still in the low single digits among mobile subscribers despite the launch more than two years ago in 11/03 by MobiTV/Sprint.

I was home in Warren, OH over the holidays. Warren is in NE Ohio. Sprint and Cellular One have great networks there. I couldn’t find Verizon’s. I showed my relatives a couple of the phones that I have on loans. All of them are older than 35 and outside of the target demographic, but I wanted to get their reaction anyway.

Summary:

Ringtones – “yeah, I’ve heard those before, but never a song.” = they have used polyphonics shipped with their phones, but never purchased a ringtone.

Games – “Cool.” I suggested to my brother-in-law that he download whatever he wanted. Deer Hunter (which I already had on my phone) held his attention for about 10 minutes. Then he downloaded Yahtzee. (sp?). I got my phone back about four hours later.

Wallpaper – “Hmmm.”

Video (streaming from Sprint) – “Wow!!!! That’s the most amazing thing ever.” And then I got my phone back an hour later after my relatives/friends had passed the phone around. It was the first time they had ever seen it. I had to confirm about 10 times that indeed it was streaming.

My brother-in-law emailed me the next week. He and his wife had just purchased new phones/plans from Sprint. I asked him if he got a phone with video capabilities. The answer was “no, we got the ones that were free.” I asked why Sprint – answer, “best coverage at home/school.” So, there you go. It’s amazing technology, but getting people to pay will prove difficult.

Watching the types of business models the carriers roll out to drive adoption will be interesting towards the end of 2006 and early 2007. How long will it be before these new handsets are free to the mobile subscriber?

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