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The Warsaw Voice » Business » September 17, 2008
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Here Comes the Era of Mobile TV
September 17, 2008   
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Cell phones will soon become TV sets as the era of mobile television has dawned.

Mobile television technology combines all the features of a cell phone with TV programming. The new technology brings traditional audiovisual content and video-on-demand services to mobile phones.

Mobile TV services are a major trend in the development of mobile technologies around the world. More than 170 operators have launched commercial mobile TV and video services worldwide. TV signal is transmitted to cell phones using three main standards, 3G (MBMS) networks, terrestrial digital TV (DVB-H), and via satellite.

According to the telecommunications company Ericsson, the 3G/MBMS technology will prevail eventually because it does not require any brand-new technologies in addition to the mobile service transmission networks that are already available. 3G/MBMS also allows an unlimited number of users to be logged on simultaneously. One of the main advantages of this technology is that it facilitates the launch of return channels that make mobile TV fully interactive. interactivity, in turn, is what helps operators and broadcasters significantly improve loyalty among users and maximize income generated from the new sources. Tests that Ericsson has conducted together with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation show that return channels may double the time that viewers spend in front of their mobile TV sets.

By the end of 2011, almost 0.5 billion people around the world will watch TV via their cell phones. According to analysts from management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, mobile TV is the most popular in Japan, with 10 million users, and South Korea, with 6 million. In Poland, mobile TV will be available starting next year, at least according to Anna Streżyńska, head of the local Office of Electronic Communications (UKE).

Beginning next year, at a fee of just a few zlotys, cell phone users will get to watch a dozen TV channels on their phones, Streżyńska says. The channels will be free from erotic content and other material that could be dangerous for children.

A few months ago, Polish cell phone operators Orange, Era, Plus and Play made a deal to work out mobile TV standards and now they have announced are practically ready to launch mobile TV services. The operators want to form a single company to become a mobile TV operator in Poland. The project is expected to pay for itself within seven years.

Other companies interested in becoming mobile TV operators are Polski Operator Telewizyjny, a joint project by commercial television stations TVN and Polsat, and digital TV service Cyfrowy Polsat. Estimates show that the cost of launching mobile TV in Poland will be anywhere from zl.100 million to zl.200 million.

Mobile TV is more than a portable version of conventional TV. It is a multimedia platform where the words "personalized" and "interactive" play a major part. Mobile TV viewers will be able to receive TV content at any time and place. In another important feature, mobile TV users will be able to share video footage of their own creation. The method is increasingly popular, as shown by the ever growing interest in YouTube and similar websites. As the numbers of consumers using portable devices to create video content increase, new platforms will emerge to enable the distribution of videos among other users.

Mobile TV programming will most likely feature a harmonious blend of conventional TV content with programs made especially for the new medium. The most popular program types will include news, entertainment-movies, cartoons, game shows and reality shows-sports and music shows.

The Future is Almost Here
Multimedia cell phones are with us for good, according to Krzysztof Burzyński, Ericsson Vice-President Networks. We now expect them to become even more useful and provide us with more content. Television, perhaps? "Absolutely," says Burzyński. "There's not much left in the way before Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) can be sent straight to your cell phone. However, the future really belongs to interactive TV. What makes it particularly attractive are the excellent advertising opportunities it presents, such as jumping to quick online shopping straight from a TV commercial. We are thus looking forward to the next steps in the development of the HSPA mobile internet network."

Mobile TV offers new opportunities for the advertising industry. advertisers will be able to adapt their commercials to users' individual needs to an extent which is impossible to achieve in conventional TV. Ads will thus be even more efficient than those on the internet. Mobile TV will also boost the popularity of mobile trade, turning portable devices into a major sales channel in no time, right next to traditional stores, websites and catalogues. Buyers will use their cell phones and other devices to shop, search for stores, find information on products, and manage their accounts. Nowadays, the number of cell phone users worldwide, at 3.3 billion, is triple that of internet users (1.3 billion), and mobile trade is likely to develop in more or less the same direction as cell phones. Pioneers in this technology are working out various ways to employ cell phones in providing multichannel services. In its most basic form, the technology uses text messages to answer questions and tell users about special offers and product availability. Mobile TV will enable even more services and Polish users have shown on many occasions that they are open to all kinds of technological innovations.

Michał Jeziorski
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