Free-to-air mobile TV crosses the digital divide as it hits 100 million user milestone

Date: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 15:27 Source: Telegent PR department

While mobile TV providers in the US and Europe are still struggling to define the right technical and business model for mobile TV, free-to-air analogue mobile TV has experienced runaway success in the emerging markets in the space of three years 

Free-to-air mobile TV crosses the digital divide as it hits 100 million user milestone Diana Jovin, VP Corporate Marketing & Business Development, Telegent Systems

TV handsets supporting analogue broadcast TV standards first appeared on the market in mid-2007 and hit the 100 million user milestone in 2010 with particularly strong uptake in emerging markets such as Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and India. 
The key driver for this rapid uptake has been the availability of live broadcast TV on low-cost devices that converge television with voice and data services in affordable mobile phone designs.  For the emerging market consumer, the ability to view TV while commuting, while during breaks at work, or while at home, provides significant value in terms of both information and entertainment access.  A second driver fueling demand in these markets has also been the dynamics of the distribution model.  In these markets, consumers purchase phones predominantly in retail channels, purchasing the voice and data service separately, which enables manufacturers to introduce differentiating features regardless of whether they directly contribute to operator service strategies.  As a result of these two factors, analogue mobile TV shipments have rapidly grown to account for half of all TV handset shipments globally and will continue to do so through 2014, according to analyst firm Forward Concepts.
Although analogue broadcast TV will continue to be accessible to more than 85% of the world’s population for the foreseeable future, some regions in both developed and emerging markets have begun the transition to digital technologies, raising the question of how free-to-air mobile TV solutions will accommodate this switchover. 
The Latin American market provides an interesting case study for this transition.  Along with Southeast Asia, Latin America is one of the dominant regions driving mobile TV growth.  Analyst firm Techno Research Systems estimates that 31 million TV handsets will be purchased by Latin American consumers in 2010 and that this number will more than double to 76 million units by 2014 for both analogue and digital TV handsets.  Despite this strong regional interest in mobile TV, consumer uptake of digital free-to-air handsets has remained limited, which many in the local ecosystem believe is due to the fact digital mobile TV has been positioned in high-end, expensive models. Mobile TV solutions are now being introduced that will enable the delivery of digital TV on low-cost handsets in combination with analogue TV, guaranteeing the broadest range of coverage and use cases during what is expected to be a reasonably long transition period in the region.  It is expected that both of these factors – low-cost digital TV designs and hybrid TV handset definitions - will jumpstart adoption of digital TV in parallel to the success of analogue TV in the region.
Uptake of free-to-air mobile TV in developed markets such as Europe and the US, where the regions have transitioned to digital broadcast TV standards DVB-T and ATSC, still remains limited.  In these regions, mobile phone definition and distribution rests largely in the hands of operators.  As a result, although consumers may value the feature as one of the many points of access to media that they have on their devices, the feature needs to be delivered in a way that it contributes to service revenue.  Developments that integrate interactive services with live broadcast TV, such as the Ginga initiative in Brazil, may help converge operator strategy and consumer demand in such a way that operators take interest in free-to-air broadcast TV as a strategic feature.  When this happens, we may start to see initial designs that incorporate the feature in developed economies, and more investment from operators in marketing campaigns around TV on mobile in the emerging markets.

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