South Korea passed a milestone for mobile TV in June by hitting the one million subscriber mark for its terrestrial mobile TV service. Currently, there are six terrestrial mobile TV broadcasters that offer ad-supported video content to Koreans who own terrestrial digital multimedia broadcast (T-DMB) handsets. On average, South Korean mobile TV subscribers watch about one hour of TV programming per day on their phones.
Japan entered the commercial mobile TV arena in March 2006 with the launch of commercial mobile TV services. Using the same radio frequencies as digital television, the Japanese mobile TV market should get a regulatory bump in 2008 when mobile TV becomes a separate service category from regular TV.
2008 will also be an important year for mobile TV in China. The country has publicly committed to having a robust mobile TV infrastructure in place in time for the Beijing Olympics. China’s two largest mobile operators, China Unicom and China Mobile, announced mobile TV trials for 2007 along with pending announcements for TV-enabled mobile handsets, probably near the end of 2006.
The Asian mobile TV initiatives come at a time when the subscriber and viewing figures from this summer’s World Cup are being figured into the plans and projections about mobile TV adoption. According to In-Stat, the current figure of 3.4 million global mobile TV subscribers is expected to balloon to over 100 million by 2010.
These subscriber figures are expected to drive global revenues for mobile TV past the $10 billion mark by 2011, according to Juniper Research. In contrast to 2006, which shows streamed mobile TV service revenues almost five times greater than broadcast, within five years that proportion will switch in favor of broadcast mobile TV services. Broadcast revenues are expected to be over twice as much as streamed by that time.
The proverbial fly in the ointment for Asia’s mobile TV story, not to mention global subscriber and revenue projections, is the fact that all three countries are pursuing separate technical standards for mobile TV.
The upshot for marketers is understanding that the global telecom equipment industry is gearing up for a nasty standards war over mobile TV, just like it did for mobile voice. Asia’s mobile TV experience will be important because the first commercial shots are being fired across the bow. Which candidate for Asia’s regional mobile TV standard survives will heavily influence the rest of the global mobile TV market.