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Content is key for UAE's mobile TV service

Nokia product manager says operator-exclusive channels to help boost marketing activity ahead of next year's launch

Content is key for UAE's mobile TV service
Nokia's latest mobile TV-enabled handset, the 5330.

The success of the UAE's mobile TV service will depend on the content offered by the likes of Etisalat and Du, according to Nokia's senior product manager for the manufacturer's mobile TV unit, who says that a handful of channels should be free to mobile users.

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 by the country's telecom regulator, with services expected to launch in the fourth quarter of next year once the AED200 million broadcast network has been built.

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

"Typically it's with 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 said.

Nokia's belief in the power of sport to lift interest in the service is borne out by its latest mobile DVB-H-enabled handset,  unveiled yesterday, which will go on sale in all markets (including the UAE) in March next year.

The mass-market 5330 device will sell for EUR155 (AED850) before tax and subsidies and will be football themed to tie-in with the FIFA World Cup taking place in South Africa next year.

Although the UAE's own mobile TV service is not expected to launch until a few months after the World Cup takes place, Bunte said that the right blend of content should help to make it a success.

"There has to be attractive channels, there has to be competition and some channels have to be exclusive to the service provider, so there should be channels that are exclusive to Du, and channels which are exclusive to Etisalat."

Bunte said such a setup will encourage consortium members to spend money marketing the service, which in turn should help to ensure that the venture is successful.

The UAE's telecommunications regulatory commission (TRA) said 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 extending to the majority of UAE population.

"It is also very important that they do not start with only a pay TV model," Bunte added. "A decent amount of channels should be free. That does not mean that they should not be encrypted, but the subscription fee should be part of the prepaid or postpaid package."

The UAE's mobile TV consortium, which is made up of Etisalat, Du, Abu Dhabi Media Company, Dubai Media Incorporated, TECOM subsidiary Emirates Communications and Technologies and MBC paid AED17 million for a ten-year licence which has a five-year exclusivity period.

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