Content is key for mobile TV

As the UAE gears up to launch its own mobile TV service, Bjorn Bunte, senior business manager in Nokia’s Solutions Unit, says that a mix of free and exclusive channels - together with a decent dose of live sporting events – will help to drive usage of the service

Tags: Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company Emirates Telecommunications CorporationMobile TVMobile contentNokia Middle East and Africa
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Content is key for mobile TV
By  George Bevir Published  December 14, 2009 Communications Middle East & Africa Logo

UAE operators Etisalat and du were part of a consortium of telecoms, technology and media companies awarded a licence to broadcast using DVB-H technology, with services expected to launch in the fourth quarter of next year once the AED200 million broadcast network has been built.

According to Nokia's senior product manager for the manufacturer's mobile TV unit, the success of the UAE's mobile TV service, which the country's regulator says will be the first of its kind in the region, will depend on the content offered by the likes of Etisalat and du with a mix of free and exclusive channels key to boosting usage of the service.

Bjorn Bunte, senior business manager in Nokia's Solutions Unit, says that content has been the key driver for take-up of mobile TV services in other markets around the world.

 "There has to be attractive channels, and there has to be competition, and channels have to be exclusive to a service provider, so channels that are exclusive to du and some exclusive to Etisalat.

The consortium, which is made up of UAE incumbent Etisalat, second operator du, Abu Dhabi Media Company, Dubai Media Incorporated, TECOM subsidiary Emirates Communications and Technologies Company and broadcaster MBC paid AED17 million for the ten-year licence with a five-year exclusivity period.

Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) director general, Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, said the license, which was awarded in October, will bring together the main players in media and telecommunication sectors to form a partnership, with one network avoiding the duplication of infrastructure and reduction of expenditure.

 The TRA says that the consortium will provide its services to Etisalat and du, with both operators providing "a variety of competitive and exclusive mobile TV packages to their subscribers" providing "at least" 13 channels for the subscribers of live TV broadcasting service from the fourth quarter of next year with coverage of the majority of UAE population.

Bunte says a mix of channels will encourage consortium members to spend money marketing the service, which should mean that in the end it is more likely to be a successful one. "It is also very important that they do not start with only a pay TV model; a decent amount of channels should be for free," Bunte adds. "That does not mean that they should not be encrypted, but the subscription fee should be part of the prepaid or postpaid package."

"Typically it is sports events that people really feel a strong demand to watch the content live and not recorded at home, such as major sports events like soccer tournaments or the Olympics. So these are a good time to launch mobile TV services," Bunte says.

Nokia's belief in the power of sport to lift interest is borne out by its latest mobile TV-enabled handset, unveiled last month, which is football themed to tie-in with the FIFA World Cup taking place in South Africa next year. The UAE's own mobile TV service is not expected to launch until after the World Cup takes place, in the fourth quarter of next year, but Bunte says the timeframe in place is a realistic one.

 Bunte says it is beneficial to have a base of devices in place in advance of the launch of services. Just in terms of the material - chipset, antenna and electronics and not including any licence fee or manufacture costs -the materials needed to create a DVB-H handset cost "around EUR5", Bunte says, which he says is a lot.

The latest Nokia handset is designed to be more affordable than some of the manufacturer's previous mobile TV-enabled devices which were aimed at the higher end of the market, and the purpose of the device is to take the service to the mass market.

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