Philippines gets new mobile TV service

Country's largest mobile operator Smart Communications rolls out commercial services based on digital video broadcasting-handheld (DVB-H) standard.

PHILIPPINES--Mobile TV made a splash in the Philippines market following an announcement last week that the country's biggest mobile phone operator Smart Communications, has rolled out commercial services based on the DVB-H, or digital video broadcasting-handheld standard.

Developed by a consortium led by handset maker Nokia, DVB-H is a technology that allows direct terrestrial transmission of TV broadcasts to DVB-H-capable handsets. The platform is one of several standards, which include Qualcomm's MediaFLO and Digital Multimedia Broadcasting, that are competing to become a global standard for delivering broadcast TV to mobile devices.

Philippine carrier Smart Communications last week said it will offer mobile TV services to local customers via selected Nokia handsets, including the recently-launched N92.

The wireless operator, which has more than 27 million subscribers on its GSM network, is teaming up with sister company 360media for the service, dubbed myTV.

According to Smart, the new service is not transmitted as a video stream or video download,m which is already available through 3G cellular networks. Instead, myTV is a broadcast service that delivers content to multiple viewers simultaneously through a digital TV broadcast signal optimized for mobile devices, much like the way conventional TV delivers a TV signal to homes.

The Philippine mobile operator is targeting to garner some 60,000 to 70,000 subscribers for the service in the next "couple of months", Danilo Mojica, wireless consumer division chief of Smart, said in an e-mail interview.

Mojica told ZDNet Asia that Smart will be targeting both prepaid and post-paid users, and is offering the service for free on a trial basis until the end of August.

The mobile operator will initially beam cable TV channels, including CNN, Cartoon Network, MTV, National Geographic Channel, and Solar Sports, via myTV. The company, however, did not disclose plans to partner Philippine broadcasting companies for the mobile TV service.

Meanwhile, Smart's archrival Globe Telecom has remained mum on details of its plans for the commercial rollout of its own mobile TV services, and particularly the standard on which it will base its services.

In a media statement, the mobile operator said "no one from Globe can talk yet about its mobile TV" as the company is still finalizing its rollout plans. And as a public-listed company, Globe noted, it needs to disclose its intentions and commercial plans to business regulators including the Philippine Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission, before making an official announcement.

Mobile TV is slowly gaining momentum worldwide in terms of subscriber take-up and projected revenues. In a recent report, research firm Informa Telecoms and Media estimates that worldwide revenues from mobile TV and video services will rise from US$2.46 billion last year to US$8.35 billion in 2011.

Another study by IMS Research published last year indicates that nearly 500 million people will watch TV on their mobile devices by the end of 2011.

Early this month, Indonesia unveiled plans to construct a nationwide mobile TV network based on the Digital Multimedia Broadcasting technology, making it the third country after Japan and South Korea to adopt the standard.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

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