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Time not yet ready for mobile TV

Latha Venkatraman

Frequency has only been allotted to Doordarshan

Mobile phone screen is being seen as the third screen after television set and computer. The is seen as an opportunity for broadcasters but it is yet to appear on their radar.

Mumbai , March 29

Mobile television may take a while before it takes off in India. In terms of technology, the concept is ready to take off but the ground realities may not yet be conducive for this leap as yet, although some stakeholders believe that a rollout of a mobile broadcast would happen in 12 months.

"Frequency for mobile television has only been allotted to Doordarshan," said Mr Sandip Das, Managing Director, Hutchison Essar Ltd.

Mobile phone service providers in India are battling with the staggering demand for voice at the moment. "At the moment, non-voice revenues account for only 8-12 per cent of our total revenues," Mr Das said. In contrast, 20 per cent of the revenues of China Mobile came from data services.

Mobile phone screen is being seen as the third screen after television set and computer. The third screen is seen an opportunity for broadcasters but it is yet to appear on their radar screen.

"We would rather focus on our core business of general entertainment television and movie channel. We may look at an outsourcing model for mobile television," Mr Purnendu Bose, Chief Operating Officer, SaharaOne Television, said.

Mobile television is digital television on phone delivered through mobile broadcast and not through mobile phone services, according to industry representatives.

Therefore, for delivery of television content on phone handsets, there has to be a concurrence between the broadcast entity and the telecom entity. However, digital delivery of content on handsets is becoming real.

At present, music accounts for 70 per cent of mobile entertainment in India. But this could change, as other means of entertainment will form part of the non-voice share in mobile phones.

Game downloads on handsets are picking up, particularly in B and C towns, Mr Vishal Gondal, CEO, IndiaGames, said. One million game downloads take place every month. Pricing is not an issue for game downloads, according to Mr Gondal.

According to Mr Das, phone entertainment is about making dead time alive. "Phone is not a substitute for a movie theatre. But one cannot carry a movie theatre in one's pocket," he said at a session at Frames 2006 recently.

But content - television or films - may have to be reformatted for the mobile phones, speakers at a session on mobile entertainment said.

They agree that there are challenges to be surmounted. While the CDMA system supports data network, the GSM data network is weak, according to Mr Vishal Gupta of Qualcomm.

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