Unlocking the Digital Dividend – Policy Tracker Event

Unlocking the Digital Dividend - Policy Tracker eventIf you thought the switchover to digital television was going to be a challenge, spare a thought for the regulators, policy makers and engineers who are already tasked with trying to figure out the best way of re-allocating the spectrum freed up by switching off the analogue broadcasting signal.

There are a multitude of possible new uses for the spectrum released by switchover, including re-allocating (or re-gifting) it back to the very broadcasters who previously used it in order for them to deliver HD and other services.

Mobile providers are also launching a campaign to ensure an allocation for mobile TV over DVB-H, or extending 3G and rolling out mobile broadband services. Some countries may even look to allocate the spectrum to defence and/or emergency service uses. Or it could well be a mix of all of the above – although the resource is finite – hence the issue.

It was this re-allocation process that provided the focus for an event run today by Policy Tracker. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the first couple of sessions – but the roster of speakers for the day looked very strong indeed. I hope that Policy Tracker will look to do more events, if they are of this calibre.

Unlocking the Digital Dividend - Policy Tracker eventThe first two sessions focused mainly on the problems associated with harmonisation. It is essential that adjoining states will have to work together to allocate spectrum, if there are not to be interference issues. The ITU’s Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06) which will be held in Geneva between May 15 and June 16, aims to provide the necessary regulatory framework for national regulators such as Ofcom as they look to re-allocate. This framework will not limit or determine the re-allocation but ensure licence holders meet certain requirements to ensure harmonious use – enforced by national regulators.

It was interesting to note that London’s geographical location – and possible interference in parts of France and Holland – will mean that any allocation for DVB-H services will effectively have to wait until 2012. Ofcom have already stated this – but pressure will surely start to mount when other European cities (where there are no associated interference issues) will start rolling out DVB-H mobile TV starting in 2007.

Interesting comments from Roberto Ercole of the GSM Association, who said that mobile providers were currently unsure about how the reallocation process would work. He said that the industry faced three key issues – regulatory uncertainty, not knowing whether mobile TV would come under the same regulations as broadcasting, and the possible fragmentation of markets due to allocations differing across regions.

Unlocking the Digital Dividend - Policy Tracker eventOf course regulatory uncertainty is same for all those looking to unlock the digital dividend (although some argue that the broadcasters are well positioned because they already sit on the spectrum). Whatever happens its going to be a complex and highly political interplay between policy makers, regulators and transnational organisations such as the ITU.

There is a very difficult balance to strike, ensuring that there is enough incentive for potential users to keep investing and developing technologies whilst also ensuring that the released spectrum will be used in the most productive and efficient manner.

A particularly pertinent question from one delegate – that didn’t get an answer – what is that citizen/consumers will get from the re-allocation? Afterall it is citizen/consumers who are effectively having to pay to release the spectrum. Ofcom’s initial proposals on the issue suggest that this is a question that they will look to answer – so we’ll wait and see.

Consumer Voice: UK Proposed Super-Consumer BodyLuke Gibbs is a co-founder of OfcomWatch

UK Mobile TV Trials Get Mixed Response

UK Mobile TV Trials Get Mixed ResponseTwo recent studies into mobile TV on 3G mobile phones have managed to produce rather inconclusive results concerning the willingness of the great British public to use the service and how much they’d be prepared to pay for it.

The preliminary findings of a trial by UK mobile phone operator O2 in Oxford revealed that the majority of users were overwhelmingly in favour of the service and would consider taking it up.

Around the clock live access to 16 TV channels was offered to 375 O2 users from a “wide range of demographics” in the 18-44 age band, in a trial carried out in partnership with broadcast technology company Arqiva.

UK Mobile TV Trials Get Mixed ResponseThe feedback seemed back-slappingly reassuring, with 83 per cent of the triallists “satisfied” with the service, and 76 per cent indicating they’d be keen to take up the service within 12 months.

Users were given specially adapted Nokia 7710 smartphones to view the DVB-H service in late September 2005.

Most users averaged around three hours TV a week, with some square eyed viewers clocking up as much as five hours a week.

Predictably, demand was highest in the mornings, lunchtimes and early evenings.

UK Mobile TV Trials Get Mixed Response“This trial is further illustration that we are moving from a verbal only to a verbal and visual world in mobile communications,” said David Williams, O2’s technology chief.

“Broadcast TV for mobile can be a powerful new service that further enables users to personalise their mobile handset so that they can always have the content they want,”>Mixed results for BT and Virgin Mobile

The findings weren’t so rosy from BT and Virgin Mobile’s six month mobile TV trial.

Their 1,000 London-based users reported that they preferred to listen to digital radio rather than watch TV on their mobiles.

Moreover, they didn’t value the service particularly highly either, stating that they were only willing to shell out £5 a month for broadcasts, far short of the £10 monthly charge that operators were hoping to levy.

The BT/Virgin trial found that although people liked mobile TV – 59 per cent found it appealing or very appealing – there was more enthusiasm for digital radio (65 per cent.)

Moreover, triallists used the radio more (95 minutes a week, compared to 66 minutes of TV viewing) – a figure also reflected in the 02 trials, where 7 out of 10 users wanted digital radio channels to be included in a commercial service.

BT also discovered that news clips and favourite shows proved far more popular with viewers than mobile versions of shows.

The companies concerned will be keen to learn the lessons of these trials, as mobile multimedia services are vitally important to telecom operators looking to generate income and recoup their vast investments.

ITV: Takeover Rumors, Poss BT

ITV's star rising: Bid Rurmors, Poss BTSpeculators with a wad of cash might like to consider convert said cash into an ITV plc share holding in the next few days some feel.

Rumors in the city on Friday that BT was seriously considering making a bid for the UK’s top-rated commercial broadcaster have already driven the ITV share-price up. While this particular risk adverse suitor might not make the deal, ITV is looking an increasingly attractive proposition to a variety of companies.

Even without a takeover, ITV has been tipped by financial commentators to outperform the sector having come out the other side of a restructuring process as a more focused media company.

ITV's star rising: Bid Rurmors, Poss BTBT, despite having previously stated that it has no desire to enter the content market, needs to consider the competition from both BSkyB and a revitalised NTL. This could force BT’s into making an early move before other predatory companies come out of the shadows but will need to balance this against the cost of such an acquisition.

Google has already done a deal with ITN, part owned by ITV (and its contracted news provider), to access the company’s extensive archives and is busy beefing up an alliance to take on Microsoft and Yahoo.

Away from the ‘Search goliaths’, mobile companies also see an opportunity in DVB-H TV services. This would provide revenues but the mobile operators would be in a position where they’d need to split revenues with broadcasters or content owners. Perhaps they would like to get a hold of a strong broadcaster to pay for those expensive licenses?

ITV's star rising: Bid Rurmors, Poss BTUnlike Sky, which is principally a broadcast platform owner and call centre operator, ITV actually has what companies with desires to be fully-grown media giants badly need; content and a fifty year plus heritage of making TV programmes.

Until a financially-pressed Chancellor of the Exchequer looks at the anomaly that is the Channel 4 company (effectively a state owned UK TV company), there’s not a lot else available in Europe that sustains close scrutiny. The UK’s Channel 5 is embedded with RTL and it is unlikely that the BBC will be considered for privatisation until after the next Royal Charter is granted.

In the current frenzy of consolidation, ITV a relative minnow in global terms is sure-fire shark bait to Telcos, mobile operators and Internet giants.

Vodafone Launches Global Mobile TV

Vodafone Launches Global Mobile TVVodafone has started to roll out its global Mobile TV channels, serving up a feast of “world-class TV brands, pan-European sports coverage and leading entertainment and documentary programmes”.

The global Mobile TV channels will be widely available across Vodafone markets from this month and will include big hitting series like HBO’s “Sex and the City”, “Six Feet Under” and special mobile editions of the old favourite, ’24’ from Fox.

Sports fans will be kept amused on the move with Eurosport, UEFA Champions League and, err, Chilli TV (who?) channels, with the Vodafone service also carrying popular channels like MTV and Discovery.

“With a wide range of ‘good for TV’ handsets, an intuitive, easy to use service and a portfolio of instantly recognisable television brands and programming, the launch of global Mobile TV is a compelling proposition for our customers”, purred Peter Bamford, Chief Marketing Officer at Vodafone.

“Attracting world class content providers, such as Twentieth Century Fox Television and HBO, ensures the premium quality of this product and underpins our confidence in its widespread adoption,” he continued.

Vodafone Launches Global Mobile TVVodafone say that their research into the market revealed that Mobile TV complemented television viewing habits at home and thus demonstrated a hearty appetite for the product amongst consumers.

Their study found that consumers want well-known TV brands and channels and like to “dip” in and out of television as a way of filling up free time (or skiving from work).

Sourced globally, the TV content will work with any 3G enabled handset and will complement existing domestic Mobile TV offerings in eight of Vodafone’s operating countries (namely, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and the UK) as well as associate and partner networks in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Austria.


3 Italia Buys TV Broadcaster: Now First Euro Hybrid Mobile TV Co

3 Italia Buys TV Broadcaster: Now First Euro Hybrid Mobile TV CoIn a sure sign that TV to the mobile is the new European media battleground, 3G mobile operator 3 Italia have announced its plans to purchase the Italian national broadcaster, Canale 7. Reports have put the price of the acquisition at between €30-35m.

The addition of Canale 7, Italy’s fourth largest broadcaster, gives the company access to the country’s existing home TV business. Canale 7 currently broadcasts in analogue to around 40% of Italy, predominantly its north. More interestingly, it also has a terrestrial digital TV nationwide network operator’s license. This should provide coverage for over 70% of the country.

It is expected that 3 Italia will work to develop a Pay-TV and interactive services proposition for handhelds. We also understand their intention would be for Canale 7’s nationwide digital project to be integrated with 3 Italia’s UMTS mobile network to create a DVB-H network.

3 Italia Buys TV Broadcaster: Now First Euro Hybrid Mobile TV CoThe company intends to offer a DVB-H mobile TV service from the second half of 2006. Indications are that there will be a minimum of 20 channels, although no line up has yet been decided. 3 Italia already carries Playboy adult entertainment and football via existing technology, and has worked with Mediaset and News Corp’s Sky Italia pay-TV operator.

Italy is already one of Europe’s leaders in mobile consumption and is considered to be a prime market for such services. Reports we’ve seen rather puzzlingly mention a “standard of video quality comparable to DVD” perhaps somewhat unlikely on the small screens that will be deployed for this sector – but we’re sure the picture will be absolutely bella.

3 Italia, which is owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, has so far invested €9bn in its 3G network since obtaining a license from the Italian government in 2000. It currently has around 4.8 million Italian subscribers. Hutchison Whampoa also own 3G licenses in other countries including the UK.

3 Italia
Canale 7

Nokia N92 With DVB-H Receiver, N80, N71 Announced

Nokia N92 With DVB-H Receiver, N80, N71 AnnouncedNokia has announced three more Nokia N series multimedia devices, the Nokia N92 (the world’s first mobile device with a built-in DVB-H receiver), the Nokia N71 and the Nokia N80.

All three multimedia -tastic handsets support all GSM bands, 3G, WLAN, corporate email access and advanced voice functionality (including IP PBX connectivity over WLAN), and come with integrated security features.

Nokia N92

Most interesting is the Nokia N92, which has the honour of being the world’s first mobile device with a built-in DVB-H receiver, letting users watch and record live TV on the move.

A curious swivelling, flip-top affair, the N92 comes with a large (2.8″) anti-glare QVGA screen supporting 16 million colours and dedicated media keys

The Nokia N92 sports a shedload of functionality for watching and searching for TV programs, with an Electronic Service Guide (ESG) offering information about available TV channels, programs and services

Nokia N92 With DVB-H Receiver, N80, N71 AnnouncedUsing the built in software, users can also create personal channel lists, subscribe to TV-channel packages, set program reminders and interact through services such as voting, program feedback and additional web discovery.

For web surfing, the Nokia N92 comes with the new Nokia Web Browser with Mini Map, which displays a semi-transparent zoomed-out view of a web page, enabling users to quickly zip about a large page on a small screen.

Branded as a Nokia XpressMusic device, the handset offers up to 2 GB memory card support, and ships with built-in stereo speakers and stereo headset.

The N92 also comes with a digital music player, FM radio with Visual Radio support (providing interactive information on playing songs and artists) and an onboard 2 megapixel camera.

Connectivity is ably taken care of with Wi-Fi, infrared, Bluetooth and USB 2.0 support.

Based on S60 3rd Edition and Symbian OS, the Nokia N92 is expected to be in the shops by mid 2006 in Europe, with a price tag around €600.

Nokia N80

Nokia N92 With DVB-H Receiver, N80, N71 AnnouncedSporting WLAN and 3G, the Nokia N80 is being touted as the world’s first handset to feature UPnP technology, and has the ability to be used as a remote control for wirelessly swapping content between PCs, audio equipment and TVs.

So long as all the gear is compatible, images and video stored on a Nokia N80 can be viewed on a TV, while MP3s on the handset can be played through an audio system.

Nokia N92 With DVB-H Receiver, N80, N71 AnnouncedPhotos snapped on the Nokia N80 can also be printed wirelessly to any UPnP-enabled printer or photo kiosk.

Nokia N80 is also the first quadband handset designed to work on 3G (WCDMA 1900 or 2100), WLAN, EDGE and four GSM bands (850/900/1800/1900).

The phone features a sliding design with a high definition, 352 x 416 pixels display.

There’s a hefty 3 megapixel camera with capture key, full-screen landscape capture, a close-up mode switch and CIF video capture with inbuilt video stabilisation.

Nokia N92 With DVB-H Receiver, N80, N71 AnnouncedStorage comes in the form of 40 MB of internal memory, with support for miniSD cards of up to 2 GB.

The Nokia N80 has a built in digital music player and stereo FM radio with Visual Radio support.

Available in the first quarter of 2006, the price is expected to be €500.

Nokia N71

Finally, we come to the N71, another member of the Nokia XpressMusic family.

Billed as a “pocket-sized entertainment system”, the Nokia N71 comes with a stereo FM radio, support for digital music and videos and new Nokia Web Browser with Mini Map.

Nokia N92 With DVB-H Receiver, N80, N71 AnnouncedWe could only find a teensy-weensy picture of the 3G clam phone as we went to print, but we can tell you that is has two displays and two cameras, one of which is a 2-megapixel camera.

Speaking at the Nokia Mobility Conference, Nokia Chairman and CEO Jorma Ollila bigged up digital convergence:

“We expect the market for convergence devices to double to 100 million units in 2006. Developers, media companies and enterprises are shifting their focus to Nokia’s S60 smartphone platform, as they see the business potential of using it to offer content and ensure secure remote access to corporate applications”

“Convergence is opening up a world of opportunities for our customers and partners, and Nokia is committed to developing the tools, solutions and products to make the promise of the digital industry a reality,” Ollila added.


Wharfedale DV832B Review: Digital TV Box

DV832B Wharfedale Digital TV BoxAfter several years of battling with the clunky interface and weird quirks of our museum-ready OnDigital digital terrestrial television box, we decided it was time to replace it with something a little more contemporary.

With digital broadcast delivery technology moving so fast, we weren’t minded to shell out too much for something that may be rendered obsolete by some funky new feature in a few years, so we went looking for a cheap’n’cheerful option.

A quick visit to box-shifting supremos Argos saw our eyes fixing on an ideal candidate: the Wharfedale DV832B digibox.

Sure, it’s not much to look at and the plastic case – with its cheap, old-school red LCDs – is unlikely to woo the neighbours, but the feature list was far more than what we expected at the price level.

DV832B Wharfedale Digital TV BoxFor the princely sum of just £35 (~$62, €52), the Wharfedale offers a digi box with a 7 day electronic programme guide (EPG), digital text, digital interactive services, DVB subtitles, auto scan and setup and 2 SCART sockets.

Suitably impressed, we shelled out the readies and plugged the unit into our home entertainment system.

Once powered up, the unit asks if we want it to automatically scan for stations and after saying “Yes please Mr DigiBox”, we were presented with a long list of available digital TV and radio stations.

DV832B Wharfedale Digital TV BoxOnscreen menus

As with most digital boxes, you need the remote control to access the key functions with the front of the unit only offering controls for on/off and program up/down.

The onscreen interface was simple, crisply designed and easy to navigate, and proved fairly intuitive in operation.

Using the onscreen menus we were given options to delete channels, rename channels, select favourites, set up to five timers, add a parental lock, choose TV type and set up Over-Air software downloads.

Within minutes of getting the DV832B out if its box, we were skipping channels with glee, pausing momentarily to wonder who on earth watches those dire Bid TV programs.

DV832B Wharfedale Digital TV BoxPicture quality

Picture quality was good with no nasty outbreaks of the jaggies to be seen (although we do live within eyeshot of the Crystal Palace transmitter so we can’t say how it might perform in areas with weaker coverage), and we found the overall performance to be perfectly satisfactory.

The slimline silver unit (4.8 x 30 x 20.6cm) comes with a simple and straightforward 24-page manual, a SCART lead and a run-of-the-mill remote control (there’s no Top Up TV compatibility on board, but we’re not complaining at this price!).

Our conclusion

The Wharfedale DV832B provides outstanding value for money, is a thoroughly capable performer and we have no hesitation in giving it five stars.

Mobile TV’s Business Case Yet To Be Proven

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVIndustry experts at the inaugural mobile TV show in London today couldn’t agree on the best way forward for this emerging technology.

After two days of debate, the jury’s still out.

While yesterday’s event focused on infrastructure, today’s focused on content, and how to pay for it.

Claire Tavernier, Fremantle Media, (pictured right) thought it most likely that content producers would launch their own channels rather than go with pay-per-view clips or advertiser-funded models.

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVHyacinth Nwana, (pictured left) speaking for Arqiva, and Jeremy Wright of Enpocket, both saw advertiser funded content – whether programming or entertaining video ‘spots’ – to be the key driver.

Riccardo Donato, Channel 4, said the broadcaster was hedging its bets, with branded content available via both mobile operators’ portals and Channel 4’s own ‘off-portal’ wap site.

Some speakers reported on recent trials.

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVEirik Solheim of Finnish state broadcaster NRK, (pictured right) said their mobile TV trials had seen some success with pay-per-view.

BT Livetime’s Emma Lloyd, whose ongoing trials with Virgin Mobile and Digital One started in July, said peak consumption came when participants travelled to and from work (not surprisingly). Users were watching an average 10-15 minutes per sessions.

It was revelaing that throughout a day filled with many case studies, not a single speaker would reveal revenue figures.

Clearly it’s early days in this fledgling industry, but with such shyness of the financials, it doesn’t bode well.

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TV

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVThe UK production and development community is in danger of losing out to competition from overseas if it doesn’t wake up to the potential of mobile TV, said Mark Selby, Nokia’s Global Vice President for Multimedia, (pictured right) at the inaugural Mobile TV forum in London today.

“There is already activity in many other markets,” he said. “The UK is perceived as a technology capital by the rest of Europe, but it could lose this advantage. Its approach to mobile TV is being seen as luddite.”

Nokia has staked its claim on DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds) as the best technology for future delivery of mobile TV services. DVB-H is a one-to-many technology; it’s cost effective and provides what could be seen as highly attractive content to consumers (ie. like existing broadcast TV channels).

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVBut many claimed that the lack of spectrum is holding DVB-H back in the UK.

David Harrison, senior technology advisor at Ofcom, (pictured left) also speaking at today’s conference, confirmed that no new spectrum would begin to be available until the start of analogue switch-off in 2008. [Ed: Following that they’re keen on a spectrum auction, see below for further information on their current proposal]

Harrison’s comments left the floor wide open for Glyn Jones, Operations Director, Digital One, (pictured below right) to remind the audience that there is an alternative to DVB-H – Digital Multimedia Broadcast (DMB). There’s no coincidence about his comments – Digital One owns the spectrum for it.

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVDigital One owns the UK’s only nationwide commercial DAB multiplex – but the capacity allocated for DMB is minimal.

The word in the halls over coffee was that recent events such as London winning the 2012 Olympics and the London tube bombings, are causing the UK Government to re-think its mobile TV strategy. Mobile TV could have a positive use in mass crowd control, telling people what to do should another terrorist attack happen.

In the next 12 months, Nokia will be hoping for a change in policy.

Spectrum Framework Review: Implementation Plan – Interim Statement
Digital One

Mobile TV Looks To Rake In The Revenue Stream

Mobile TV Looks To Rake In The Revenue StreamA report by Unstrung Insider claims that Mobile TV is set to become a breakthrough mass-market mobile data service, boosted by pioneering services offered by major global operators such as Orange, Vodafone, and SK Telecom.

The report, entitled Mobile TV: Switching on the Revenue Stream, highlights the growing success of mobile TV over 3G and satellite broadcast networks, with some operators already soaring past the million sessions per month mark.

With commercial services streamed over 3G networks showing signs of success in their own right, the report suggests that the real power of mobile TV will be to act as an “extension” to regular TV services, persuading even the most techno-phobic mobile phone users of the benefits of 3G subscriptions.

Report author and Unstrung Insider Chief Analyst Gabriel Brown was enthusiastic: “There’s a lot of mileage in unicast mobile TV as a lure to attract high- value 3G subscriptions”.

“The power is its simplicity: Everyone already knows how to watch TV,” he added.

Steven Day, corporate affairs director at Virgin Mobile in the U.K agrees, saying that people who wouldn’t consider using, a streaming media application, for example, will warm to the new technology.

Basing his opinion on feedback from the company’s current 1,000-user mobile TV broadcast trial in London, Day praised the ease of use of Mobile TV services, “It’s dead easy. Everyone knows what it is, and what it does”.

Although the simplicity and familiarity of the service will please punters, the report says that mobile TV will need a “sophisticated sales approach” from operators who face a market driven by very low-cost or “free” services, adding that the mass market will only likely pay up to US$10 (~£5,€8~)a month for mobile TV.

The technology

Mobile TV Looks To Rake In The Revenue StreamThe report comments on the industry expectation that “one-to-many” mass-market mobile TV services may be more efficiently delivered over dedicated mobile broadcast networks using technologies such as DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld), DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcast), and MediaFLO.

Despite DVB-H growing into the leading contender for dedicated mobile broadcast networks (especially in Europe) pesky issues surrounding spectrum allocation in urban areas looks set to slow down the commercialisation of services.

A potential joker in the pack could be Qualcomm’s MediaFLO technology, which has the potential to challenge DVB-H as the automatic mobile broadcast technology choice. Although the technology isn’t as mature as DVB-H, delays to mobile broadcast spectrum allocation can only work to Qualcomm’s advantage.