MobiTV Powers Orange 3G TV

MobiTV Powers Orange 3G TVWe covered the announcement of Orange’s 3G TV content to mobile handsets last week, but today we discovered who’s providing the content-to-mobiles technology powering the services.

Idetic, the company behind MobiTV, who are in turn Orange’s partners for the service, are the technical brawn behind the operation. Headquartered in Berkeley, CA they have been around since 1999, originally working on bandwidth optimisation systems for cellular networks.

We spoken extensively with Ray DeRenzo, former Chief Marketing Officer of Vodafone America’s Global Platform and Internet Services Group, who joined Idetic as VP of EMEA (so he’ll have a somewhat less-wide business card these days), running through many areas of their business.

A fortuitous early deal with Siemens saw the creation of a smart proxy server product being bundled with Siemens hardware and begin actively sold, with Siemens effectively becoming a sales agent for Idetic system. This licensing deal gave them the breathing space, and cash flow, to further develop the system.

The roots of the system that is being used on the Orange project lay in a demonstration system for delivering content over IP connections to TV, originally created as a sales tool to sell their optimisation products.

During a demo with a major US broadcaster, the eyes across the table lit up, generating great excitement about using the system to syndicate broadcaster content to many platforms.

This pivotal moment for the company, altered the companies direction, expanding them in a new direction.

MobiTV Powers Orange 3G TVAfter much careful thinking and planning they’ve ended up with an end-to-end solution, spanning ingestion; digitisation; encoding; and distribution going initially to IP TV, now cellular and wireless.

In what must have been a pretty big transition for the technical-focused company, they launched MobiTV, hiring the BSD’s from Hollywood, TV and the cellular world. By gathering content distribution deals initially in the US, now Europe and soon Asian markets, they have placed themselves in an enviable position, supplying the delivery system and the content to be delivered – both sides of the transaction.

With expansion into Europe and Asia on their main, back in February, MobiTV swelled their ranks with some of the great and the good from the mobile world, one of which being our interviewee Ray DeRenzo. A smart move bringing in people who’ve been very close to the Giant.

Digital-Lifestyles spoke to Ray this afternoon who confirmed their first trip to MipTV this year had been highly rewarding with many of the content companies beating a path to their door. He commented that seeking content deals has been significantly easier in the US, as the content owners are consolidated into a small number of very powerful providers, differing from the significantly more fractured map of Europe.

Their heritage in the US has done them big favours. The deals that they have made there have enabled them to supply a similar service to the Orange TV service, in the US to Sprint PCS, AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless and a number of other regional carriers in the region carrying 23 channels.

These US roots could go someway to clarify why the Orange UK TV service is so weighted towards US content. Signing deals like CNN are a sure thing in many countries of the world.

The simplicity of the whole system is quite beautiful. Ingesting at satellite downlink sites in the US and Europe, this is transferred to their operations centre in the US where the content is prepared and distributed to cellular phone users handsets via their downloaded application. When content is delivered of the handset, the application takes care of the deliver of the content, DRM and rescaling of the video to the specific characteristics of the destination handset.

They’ve opted not to use the RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol) standard as many other video streaming services have, but have decided to use their own packeted-delivery approach, which they claim is more bandwidth efficient than leaving the connection constantly open, as RTSP does. It would seem to make sense.

Orange have initially decided to only offer a bundle deal, £10 (~US$18 ~€14.5)per month including 20 hours of access to any of the TV content. MobiTV system is also able to offer many more payment options including one-off payment using micro-payments.

Depending on the handset that is used, MobiTV claim mobile views should be getting a frame rate of around 15 fps, which while it’s around half the frame rate of ‘normal’ TV, sound eminently very watch able – certainly a considerable improvements on the much maligned 1-2 fps of a couple of years ago.

The delivery of TV and video content to the mobile handset is currently white hot both in the content and mobile worlds – and it’s been getting that way for the last 18 months. What has yet to be consistently proven is the consumer’s appetite for paying for it – Will it have the run away success of SMS or only generate the mild interest of MMS.

We don’t know Idetic/MobiTV’s offering intimately, but from the overview we’ve had it certainly looks like an interesting offering.