By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Digital TV broadcasting to cellphones has only just begun, but In-Stat believes the number of worldwide subscribers will leap from 3.4 million in 2006 to 102 million by the end of 2010, but only 18.5 million of them will be in North America.
That would be out of a total forecast of 297 million wireless subscriptions in North America.
The uptake in North America will proceed slowly, In-Stat analyst Michelle Abraham said, because most U.S. consumers don't take public transportation to work, “Commute times seem to be the prime opportunity to use the services,” she said. It's also uncertain whether the mobile DTV network buildouts will be nationwide by that point, she added.
A lesser reason for the slow North American uptake is that some of the mobile DTV services in Japan and Korea are free, but in the United States, the services will require a subscription.
The first deployments occurred overseas in 2005, and trials are ongoing in many parts of the world, including the U.S., In-Stat noted. In the United States, carriers will opt for the DVB-H or Modeo standards because mobile TV broadcasters will deliver audio and video content over a non-cellular spectrum that offers “a much lower cost per bit for video delivery,” In-Stat said. “Using cellular networks to deliver content that millions want to watch simultaneously requires much greater bandwidth than is currently available [over cellular networks],” said Abraham.
Nonetheless, mobile TV reception could migrate into video iPods, portable DVD players, handheld GPS devices and the like, Abraham said. Apple, for example, could manage a consumer's subscription via the iTunes site, or the networks themselves — Modeo, MediaFLO and Hiwire — would have to be more than wholesalers and want to interface directly with subscribers, she explained.
Handset prices won't slow North American uptake, Abraham said, citing the planned launches of DVB-H chipsets at $10.
Another research company, ABI Research, expects a “ramp-up in market penetration will begin to happen by early 2007.” ABI cited statements by several semiconductor companies that they have designed $10 chipsets for mobile devices. “At a $10 price tag for chipsets [to handset makers],” said analyst Alan Varghese, “mobile TV will start to gain serious traction in high-tier handsets and smartphones.” In a few years, chipset prices will fall to $5, enabling mobile TV to migrate to midtier handsets and marking the price that “hockey-stick” growth rates occur.
Some chip makers plan multiband, multistandard chips, ABI said, pointing to the dueling DVB-H and MediaFLO standards in the United States, proposals to launch DVB-H in the 1.7GHz and 700MHz bands and overseas standards such as T-DMB and ISDB-T.
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