Saturday, November 18, 2006

What does x-series mean for Mobile TV?

There was a rumour a few days ago about Three being up for sale which seems to have been scotched by this announcement. Three is first-mover with a consumer mobile broadband offering called x-series with a flat monthly fee. Services include Skype (although Carlo points out that it's not *actually* Skype on your phone), instant messaging (I wonder how they'll manage mass 'always on' as I understand the network capacity can't cope if too many are online all at the same time - perhaps someone technical can clarify that for me?), your PC where you are using Orb (although you can use Soonr or whatever if you have broadband) and viewing your home television wherever you are by incorporating slingbox. It sounds kinda like T-Mobile's web and walk product (which I use happily as it alleviates billshock) except that in the small print fair usage currently excludes VOIP and TV.

So what's the impact for Mobile TV then? There's lots of talk in the industry that 'made for mobile' is important due to the size of the screen, technology limitations, context of usage etc. However if streaming your home TV (sky, NTL, freeview or whatever) via slingbox is a 'good enough' experience that could negate the need for mobile TV per se as customers will have enough choice - certainly in the short term, and it doesn't cost them any extra assuming they're on an x-series account and they have already forked out for or don't mind forking out for a fancy slingbox.



  1. Anonymous12:03 am GMT

    Lots of fancy features announced, some of which may or may not cause them capacity issues if they aren't careful as you suggest.

    More fundamentally though I suspect this marks the start of the slide to general norm of flat rate data on mobile - which will mean that these capacity issues actually have a chance to happen because folks are no longer scared off trying data services by the unpredictable bill at the end of the month.

    On the mobile TV vs slingbox thing - I guess the key thing is what is "good enough" and how well can "real" mobile TV differentiate itself?


  2. Anonymous9:01 am GMT

    Re Slingbox - we've independently reached the same conclusion: it could be very serious for technologies such as DVB-H, as I've argued in my own blog. Conventional mobile TV already faces eventual cannibalisation from portable in-home TV, and now it faces competition outside the home, too. I guess the question is how smoothly and effectively it will work in practice, but if I was a DVB-H, MediaFlo or T-DMB supporter, I'd be pretty worried!

  3. Anonymous12:27 pm GMT

    Hi Helen

    I think that the launch of flat rate mobile broadband to the handset is potentially good for the mobile TV industry. It will allow the creation of an off-portal mobile TV industry, which in itself will drive innovation within mobile broadcasting.

    Having been involved in a number of mobile TV station launches in the UK and Europe I have found that the business models offered by mobile operators create a restriction on how many TV stations they can broadcast (unicast for the pedantic). This means that even though mobile operators have been willing to experiment with new made for mobile offerings they are limited in how many different content styles and themes they can trial.

    Flat rate mobile broadband therefore allows media owners, broadcasters, production companies, brands and even individuals with an audience to create mobile TV stations. They would need to do a deal with a mobile TV platform provider and then find their own route to an audience.

    I can see in the same way that large broadcasters have gone off portal with their WAP offerings they could go off portal with mobile TV offerings.

    Obviously Three are one of 5 UK licensed operators and it remains to see whether the others will be as insightful.


  4. Anonymous6:52 pm GMT

    Do you really think that this announcement scotches rumours of a sale, or that, on the contrary, fans the flames?

    On the one hand, this could be the mother of all courtship displays. On the other, who would buy 3 given its numbers?

    Is this announcement a brightly feathered display of hype, or a landmark 3 launch that competitors will envy and the industry admires?

    Working in consumer tech PR, I'm at the front lines of promoting things like this, but that doesn't make it much easier to decode. A few parts of the announcement do strike me as odd, however.

    For one, 3 doesn't actually have a mobile broadband offering - indeed, 3G is slower than dial-up. Swecondly, despite their claim, 3 is not the first operator to offer open internet access - indeed, they're the last. Thirdly, at the launch of this announcement, 3 brought out more 'big guns' than Smith & Wesson - possibly to cover the trakcs of their previous UK COO, who called anyone who wanted open internet access on their mobile 'nuts' (thanks Mob Happy!). Then there's the 'insight' backing this up: the mass market doesn't seem to want partners (or portals, as evidenced by the failure of WAP) - they want mobile internet to look, feel, and work like the internet at home and at work.

    In my book, these these things alone add up to than hype and bluster. And that's why I wonder if the annoucement is not another come-on to Arun Sarin?

    However, it's just not that simple. For instance, there's the list of partners at the party - MSN, Yahoo & Google. They don't just rock up to the opening of an envelope you know. And there's the visionary link up with Slingbox and Orb. For me this is the good stuff, the innovative part of the announcement, and a service to look forwaerd to. And I for one am curious to see how they price it and roll it out.

    Ultimately, for me it remains a mystery. Either way, the announcement has fair got the media jabbering. And it's raised 3's profile a treat. Whether it's for a dowry or simply more dough, it's anyone's guess.

    As a footnote, and as I haven't posted here before, in the interest of disclosure, I should point out that I have a mobile operator client. These views are my own, however, and hopefully not jaundiced by that relationship.


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