|Topic:||Mobile TV – ubiquitous access to news and information|
|Author:||Dr Weijie Yun|
|Title:||CEO and Co-founder|
Dr Weijie Yun is the CEO and Co-founder of Telegent Systems. Prior to joining Telegent, Mr Yun, a serial entrepreneur,led marketing and product management at Berkana Wireless, the world’s first company to introduce a single-chip RF CMOS receiver for GSM/GPRS cellular applications. He also served as the founding CEO of AIP Networks and was a founder and director of SiTek, a spin-off resulting from his work developing BEI Technologies’ Microengineering Technology Center. Mr Yun received his MS and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and his BS degree in physics and electronics from Zhengzhou University in China.
Television plays an important role shaping culture and providing public services. Mobile TV – over-the-air broadcasts received on a mobile phone – plays a significant role in emerging markets. Mobile handsets that receive TV are often the only access to TV broadcasts in remote regions. Although little used in mature markets, mobile TV is a key source of information for millions of consumers in emerging markets. During emergencies such as earthquakes, it is vitally important during rescue efforts and can save lives.
We now live in an age of global connectivity that links us together in closer proximity than ever before. While there are still pockets of society that have yet to experience the global communications revolution, the gap is closing between the hi-tech community in developed markets, such as Europe and the US, and the emerging markets. A number of global initiatives exist to support this rate of progression and to encourage businesses to maintain a socially responsible outlook towards developing economies. A prime example of this is The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) programme to ensure – among others – that by the year 2015, “all of the world’s population has access to television and radio services”. Television in particular plays an important role, not just in delivering entertainment, but also in shaping culture and providing a public service. This role is vital in many regions of the world where TV is the primary or only source of receiving news and information. Mobile TV – over-the-air broadcasts received on a mobile phone – has a significant role to play in fulfilling the stated mission of the WSIS and in helping bridge the communications divide. In emerging markets, mobile phone ‘TV’ handsets serve as an important source of news and information and facilitate access to TV broadcasts in regions where there is little or no access to conventional television. Although mobile TV is still in its infancy in mature markets, in China and in emerging markets it is rapidly fulfilling its role as a public service tool and as a key source of information to millions of consumers. Broadcasting in a time of crisis The mobile phone has proven to be an important communication tool during emergencies. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, many people in remote areas were rescued after reaching friends and loved ones by text message; they, in turn, contacted rescue teams with information about the location of survivors. Mobile TV, as a feature on a mobile phone, served as a lifeline following the violent earthquakes that struck Sichuan province in China on May 12, 2008. Cellular networks were interrupted by earthquake damage to base stations. However, TV stations, which generally have a more fortified infrastructure and longer range capabilities, were not affected and were able to continue broadcasting. As a result, mobile phone users that had handsets equipped for terrestrial TV were able to tune into news bulletins. Television broadcasts also played a critical and historic role in the disaster relief effort following the earthquake, due to the accessibility of mobile TV. News updates received on TV handsets allowed relief workers to better coordinate the rescue effort and provided motivation to exhausted personnel. Victims who were trapped and waiting for help were shown broadcasts of the rescue efforts on mobile handsets, providing reassurance that help was on its way. Teachers were able to organize and care for their students until help arrived by taking advantage of the public service broadcasts that offered advice on how to deal with aftershocks and manage hygiene. Families were able to reunite with missing relatives by viewing around the clock broadcasts of lists of injured survivors and their whereabouts. In the months that followed, victims of the disaster were able to use the TV handsets to stay connected with the outside world. The broadcasts to mobile handsets during the disaster demonstrate the important and useful role that mobile TV can play in making sure that information gets into the hands of the people who need it the most. News tops the content charts In Sichuan province, the earthquake created a situation where the existing communications infrastructure was not available and access to news was critical. In everyday circumstances, however, access to news continues to be of primary interest. In a global study, which covered nine countries those being China, Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, viewers with experience with mobile TV reported news as being the primary broadcast of interest, followed by sports as illustrated in the chart below. Content viewed by mobile TV users Source: Telegent survey, August 2008 Global adoption accelerating in emerging markets Mobile TV is also experiencing rapid adoption in emerging markets compared to more developed economies. In emerging markets, it tends to be available through retail channels as a free, over-the-air feature on a handset, whereas in more developed economies it tends to be offered by operators as a pay/subscription service, which slows down adoption. The fast adoption in emerging markets underscores the utility that consumers place on having mobile access to over-the-air television content. The chart below reveals the survey respondents’ reported experience with mobile TV in a country by country comparison. % of respondents who watch mobile TV Source: Telegent Systems, August 2008 Broadcast technology – analogue or digital? Although many in the industry equate mobile TV with new digital services, analogue TV broadcasts currently provide the widest global footprint for mobile TV access, particularly in developing economies. In these countries, the existing TV broadcast ecosystem – including standards, spectrum, infrastructure and content – can be harnessed to provide consumers with mobile TV solutions today, without requiring additional investment on the part of operators or the government. In the following diagram, the regions in dark blue show where analogue (NTSC, PAL or SECAM) is the primary broadcast standard used for the delivery of TV broadcasts. Looking ahead to the future By 2015, some emerging markets will be contemplating migrating from analogue to digital broadcast standards in order to free up spectrum. In these countries, it will still take time to make new digital infrastructure and access ubiquitous. During this transition period, hybrid analogue/digital solutions will provide consumers with access to new digital broadcasts in addition to existing broadcasts, until the deployment of the digital infrastructure is complete. In the meantime, analogue mobile TV provides the widest possible reach and enables consumers to receive mobile access to TV today without waiting for investment in infrastructure, spectrum or content. Driving widespread adoption Mobile TV is a feature that consumers have demonstrated that they want. To date mobile TV has been made available to consumers in two different business models and content offerings. In retail markets in Asia, the Middle East and some countries in Southern Europe and Africa, it has been made available as a feature incorporated into the handset that picks up the over-the-air broadcasts. Consumers report that they find the feature useful and use it in a variety of circumstances including when on the move or at home, to check in on news and sports, or on breaks at work. Adoption has been quite rapid, resulting in more than five million viewers in China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East by the end of 2007, and within six months of TV handset availability. Adoption has continued to accelerate in 2008. In both developed and emerging markets, operators have also offered paid mobile TV services that package together tailor-made content. Generally, the fee for mobile TV access combined with unfamiliar content has proven to be a hurdle for widespread consumer adoption, and uptake has been much slower for these types of services. To facilitate ubiquitous TV access, operators may want to consider combining both models, by providing free over-the-air broadcasts as a baseline feature of the handset, with an option to up-sell customers to premium subscription content. This will allow operators to play a key role in contributing the goal of ubiquitous TV access. Achieving ubiquitous access Many in developed markets consider mobile TV to be a luxury or entertainment feature, and a premium one at that. In emerging markets, it is seen in a completely different light. Mobile TV serves as a useful source of news and information and enables access to broadcast programmes when and where conventional television sets are not accessible. Free-to-air enabled handsets are available on the market today. These do not require operators to invest in infrastructure, spectrum or content. Free broadcast programming gives consumers access to information that can help them make important decisions and, as in the case of the Sichuan earthquake, even help save lives. This mobile access contributes towards the goal of ubiquitous global access to key information services.