Upward mobility

The grand assembly at the recent Mobile World Congress 2008 (MWC) hosted in Barcelona set the agenda for the global telecoms industry. CommsMEA examines the market developments facing the Middle East telecoms players.

  • E-Mail
By  Administrator Published  March 22, 2008

The grand assembly at the recent Mobile World Congress 2008 (MWC) hosted in Barcelona set the agenda for the global telecoms industry. CommsMEA examines the market developments facing the Middle East telecoms players.

Telecoms operators the world over are faced with declining ARPUs as traditional revenue streams are threatened by increasingly convergent business models of formerly disparate market sectors.

And with 2008 heralded as 'the year of mobile TV' by many, Sweden's Ericsson stated that at present there are more than 170 mobile TV offerings launched around the world, most of which are deployed over cellular networks.

Companies like Google are only just starting to work towards localising their mobile content in Western Europe. Operators in emerging markets realise this and appreciate that they are in a better position to localise content on their portals.

A recent study published by U.S. market-intelligence firm ABI Research suggests that the global number of mobile TV subscribers will grow to 462 million by 2012, driven largely by the expansion of 3G networks.

ABI Research's study also notes that Asia Pacific is likely to lead the world in mobile TV services with 38 million subscribers regularly using the service at end-3Q07. However, the proliferation of 3G networks and subscriber behaviour in the Gulf market indicates that the Middle East will also become a potentially lucrative market for mobile TV.

Mohammed al-Ghanim, director general of the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), recently announced that the TRA had commissioned a consultant to advise it on licensing issues, with a final report expected towards the end of 1Q08.

Exactly what the consultant will be examining also remains a mystery as a TRA spokesman declined to comment when approached by CommsMEA. The licence is expected to be awarded in 2H08, with al-Ghanim noting that it is still too early to estimate a commercial launch date.

Little other definitive information has entered the public domain, although speculation from inside the industry points toward a launch six months to a year after the licence is awarded.

More notably, sources approached by CommsMEA indicate that the TRA is unlikely to favour one operator over the other when issuing the mobile TV license.

Well-placed sources inside the UAE industry indicate the country's broadcast-mobile-TV licence is likely to be granted to an independent operator that will in turn lease spectrum to the country's two telcos. Although none would be drawn on how much the concession might cost such an outfit.

CommsMEA has been led to believe that the regulator will prefer to appoint a third party as the broadcast-mobile-TV licensee given that market competition in the UAE telecoms sector is still in its infancy.

Any prospective broadcasters bidding for the licence will almost certainly have to leverage the customer-service and billing expertise of one, if not both, of the country's cellcos, according to those approached by CommsMEA.

"Broadcasters are a very different animal to operators," one source said. "Mobile customers expect to be looked after, and that's what an operator can provide."

The Middle East Mobile TV standard?

Sources consulted by CommsMEA also indicate that the UAE telecoms regulator will take the cue of the European Union and adopt the DVB-H standard.

A six-month DVB-H trial, costing US$2 million, was recently conducted by Du and Tecom Investments - a private holding firm that belongs to the ruling family of Dubai and is based in Dubai's Media City Free Zone, the hub of Middle Eastern broadcasters.

The results of the study have been kept under wraps, though local media reports indicate that, as a result of the findings - which were recently discussed at a closed-door Tecom Investments presentation - the DVB-H standard will receive the go-ahead from the TRA.

With so many variables the business case for mobile TV remains unclear for all concerned.

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