Etisalat extends Mobile TV offerings

Last month, Etisalat brought cricket fans in the UAE a tempting offer -- the opportunity to watch the Cricket World Cup from their 3G mobile phones.

  • E-Mail
By  Vijaya Cherian Published  June 5, 2007

Last month, Etisalat brought cricket fans in the UAE a tempting offer -- the opportunity to watch the Cricket World Cup from their 3G mobile phones. Cricket enthusiasts no longer had to worry about being stuck in traffic or at work. They could catch the action live on their 3G handsets with Etisalat's mobile TV service. Etisalat claims that 97% of the populated area is covered so 3G users in urban areas should not have any trouble accessing this service.

Mobile TV is just one component of Etisalat's recently-launched Weyak portal, which has already covered some sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup 2006, the GCC Football Academy, the ESPN X Games, the 18th Arabian Gulf Cup and the English Premier League.

Etisalat sees huge revenue generating potential in its mobile TV service. With more people in the UAE spending time on the road, the mobile phone just might be the next best way to ensure that users don't miss the action.

"Mobile TV is one of the many components of Weyak," says Khalifa Al Shamsi, vice president of marketing (Consumer & SMB), Etisalat. "We started working on 3G technology in December 2003 followed by 3.5 G, which we launched in December 2005. Etisalat now covers 97% of UAE's population coverage with 3G and 3.5G network. Our coverage has gone up with the launch of 689 new 3G sites this year. With this increase in 3G sites, we now have a total of 1100 sites throughout the UAE," he adds.

Weyak currently boasts 12 TV channels in different categories including news, sports and business for its mobile TV users. "With our launch of mobile TV, we have ensured that that we have a range of channels so that people can at least get news, sports and business updates. Arabic viewers can watch Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera while English viewers can see Al Jazeera International and BBC. We also have some local channels such as Sama Dubai, Abu Dhabi TV, Emarat TV and Sharjah TV. From the world of sport, we bring Abu Dhabi Sports and Dubai Sports channel, and CNBC Arabiya covers business," explains Al Shamsi.

During the World Cup, Etisalat added two new TV channels to its portfolio. These were dedicated to covering cricket. "Etisalat was the only one in Asia and the Middle East to bring cricket to the small screen," claims Al Shamsi. "We have a very strong base in the UAE and we have brought in a variety of services to give our customers a complete experience," adds Al Shamsi.

Right now, of the five million mobile phone users in the UAE, a million own 3G phones. However, no one is sure how many of these are active mobile TV users. Etisalat, however, has waived off the connection fees for now to woo more users to its mobile TV service. "Etisalat has 30 years of experience in this country and we have constantly been upgrading our technology. We keep adding small bits and applications every now and then. As a result, we have the technology in place. Now, we need to spread the word and get more users on board," says Al Shamsi.

The main challenge now for Etisalat, according to Al Shamsi, is to try and address the specific requirements of mobile TV users and refining the needs of niche segments. "What we must see moving forward is more content tailored for mobile phone users. Media players must work hand in hand with telecommunications companies to ensure that content is produced specifically for this medium. They must understand that the screens are smaller and attention span will be shorter so they must make content to suit these requirements," he adds.

Etisalat says it is already working with providers of Hollywood and Bollywood content to provide something special for its mobile TV users. "We are moving forward from episodes to mopisodes, which is essentially specialised, short content for mobile phones," he says.

Once it works with the more established players, Al Shamsi also hopes that Etisalat will also be able to source good local content for the Arab world. In the meantime, it is looking to source more niche content to attract specific groups of people. "So far, the growth has been so fantastic that several partners from the world of broadcast are looking to join us," claims Al Shamsi.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code