Tailoring technology

Mobile TV looks set to take off in the Middle East, but it is vital for operators to tailor their offering to individual customers.

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By  Roger Field Published  November 27, 2007

With ICT specialists and end-users constantly on the look out for the next big thing in the sector - usually driven by a new technology or innovation - a recent conference in Dubai provided an interesting glimpse of where the telecom market is heading.

The past month saw ICT professionals attend the IPTV World Forum, which attracted heavyweight players and offered attendees a glimpse of future trends in the industry. Most speakers at the IPTV Forum confirmed what industry insiders were already thinking - that the increasing penetration of broadband and wireless internet access will propel IPTV and mobile TV into the mainstream.

But while IPTV might become a major component of the mobile sector, the way the technology is actually deployed by operators raises many questions. For example, delegates at the event questioned how end-users will want to use mobile TV, how to ensure customer loyalty, and what payment methods might work best for the service.

For many specialists at the event, it is vital that mobile operators and content providers offer something beyond just TV via mobile phone, which would hold little more than novelty value for end users.

The most successful operators will be those who seek to make TV part of bundle of services and offer the broadest coverage, according to Eric Leseigne, VP of business development at Alcatel-Lucent. It seems likely that operators need to ensure mobile TV services are designed with the end-user, rather than the technology, in mind.

Another reminder that not all developments in the telecoms sector are purely technology driven is the emergence of the MVNO in the Middle East.

With Saudi Arabian player i2 planning to acquire its first MVNO licence in Jordan and Dubai-based start-up Friendi Mobile set to launch an operation in the MENA region in 2008, the concept is likely to have considerable impact.

But while some operators might see MVNOs as a threat, others claim they will benefit the entire market. Mikkel Vinter of Friendi Mobile points out that in Europe, MVNOs outnumber regular operators without damaging the market. Certainly MVNOs highlight what can be achieved with careful branding and a focus on specific segments of the market. Regular operators in the Middle East may even learn a few tricks from their MVNO counterparts.

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