Mumbai: Mobile TV using broadcast technology, which allows cellphone subscribers to receive television channels on their handsets, is awaiting regulatory clearances, but the global war for technology standards has arrived in India.
MediaFLO, backed by telecom technology provider Qualcomm Inc., and DVB-H (digital video broadcasting-handheld), endorsed by Finnish handset manufacturer Nokia Oyj, are in the race to become the standard in the world’s fastest growing cellular market.
Tuning in : Qualcomm India President Kanwalinder Singh
Globally, broadcast mobile TV is barely two years old. DVB-H, endorsed by the EU, rules the roost in Europe, while MediaFLO has been adopted by the two largest cellular operators in the US—Verizon Wireless and AT&T. This makes it difficult for one to encroach on the other’s territory. Other advanced telecom markets such as South Korea and Japan use their own standards.
For further penetration of either standard, India, with 200 million cellphone subscribers (according to telecom regulator Trai) and growing, is a key target market.
“We are lobbying with the government to open up the mobile TV space and allow multiple technologies to be deployed,” says Kanwalinder Singh, president, Qualcomm India. Mobile TV is yet to see big numbers even worldwide—a report by market analyst Datamonitor pegs the number of subscribers at 4.4 million—but Qualcomm is betting big on large-scale adoption of the service in India.
It is in talks with several telecom operators, broadcasters and mobile content developers to offer interactive mobile TV. Qualcomm hopes to launch the service in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New? Delhi.? It? hopes? the? event will spur mass adoption of the service.
Qualcomm, which offers end-to-end mobile TV solutions, also makes chipsets, licenses the MediaFLO standard and partners with TV channels to offer a package deal for telecom operators. That Nokia, the largest handset maker and a dominant player in India, has decided to adopt DVB-H is a blow to Qualcomm. In addition, Nokia has partnered with Doordarshan, which has a monopoly on terrestrial broadcasting, to offer DD’s channels on mobiles using DVB-H in India. While Nokia is offering high-end DVB-H-enabled handsets, Qualcomm wants to target the lower end of the market as well, Singh said.
The firm is hoping that the government will open up the space for other players, similar to the deregulation of the FM radio a few years ago. Since the service deploys broadcasting techniques, it raises questions on whether service providers will be telecom operators or broadcasters. Trai has propo-sed new players be allowed to offer mobile TV. It has also called for industry views to help formulate a regulatory framework for the service.