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Dedicated Mobile TV Faces Weak Future

Disappointing paid subscriber levels attributed to prevalence of 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi, finds Juniper Research.
Over 180 million people will subscribe to 3G/4G/Wi-Fi-enabled mobile TV services by 2013 -- but the number of paying viewers to certain networks is not expected to be higher than 10 million globally, according to a new study by Juniper Research. Competition from streamed mobile services due to the growth of Wi-Fi and free-to-air terrestrial network mobile reception "has led to growing disillusionment within the industry," the firm claimed in a statement.

The small number of paying subscribers will be to networks based on standards including DVB-H, DMB, CMMB, and MediaFlo, the firm said, as the greater growth will be seen by customers subscribing to 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi. This would explain Qualcomm's recent decision to sell MediaFlo, its mobile TV subsidiary, claimed Dr. Windsor Holden, principal analyst and author of the Juniper Research report, "Tuning in to Mobile TV," in a statement.

"MediaFlo has been hamstrung by various factors, many of which have been outside its control,'' said Holden. "The delay in analogue switch-off prevented it from gaining national coverage; its partners set the service price at too high a level which put off potential customers. When you factor in likely free-to-air competition over ATSC-M/H in the medium term, then clearly MediaFlo faces a difficult future in the U.S."

But the firm believes that Asian markets, including Japan and Taiwan, hold better long-term prospects for MediaFlo, and that its networks, as well as those of other mobile broadcast service providers, would do better by focusing on "delivering a wide range of data services rather than acting as pure mobile TV distributors." Another revenue stream for mobile TV is the delivery to in-vehicle entertainment systems, United Kingdom-based Juniper Research said.

In a related report released earlier this summer, the firm projected that the increasing availability of free Wi-Fi services would bolster the mobile TV market with nearly $7 billion in revenues by 2015. However, it cautioned that an increase in mobile TV usage would still burden the 3G and 3.5G networks, even though Wi-Fi offers the cellular networks some capacity relief.