Telstra's BigPond ISP is trying its hand where so many others have struggled -- launching mobile TV over 3G.
Today saw the official debut of BigPond mobile TV, which will be available to all Next G users. The on-demand "channel" will feature programs from Australia and abroad, including The Chaser's War on Everything, Jackass, South Park and Spongebob Squarepants. Telstra has also commissioned two made-for-mobile content series, Big Five, with Hamish and Andy, and Girl Friday, another comedy.
Users will be able to pause and rewind any content they're viewing and will retain the rights to view a purchased program for a week.
The content will be charged at 50 cents per clip or AU$4.95 for a full length episode of a series. Telstra is not currently planning to introduce "all you can eat" TV plans but said it would consider the option if subscriber numbers are sufficient.
BigPond group managing director Justin Milne said the company would also consider a fee-free advertising supported model should the company's mobile TV offering take off among consumers. "As the audience grows, we think the ad-supported model could fly," he noted.
Several big name operators around the world have already deployed TV over 3G or mobile broadcast standards, such as DVB-H. Few however, notably in Europe, have managed to make return on investment and industry analysts remain sceptical on consumer demand for such services.
"It's just early days. In many ways we're inventing the medium," Milne told ZDNet Australia. He added he believes that network speed has been, and will be, the crucial factor in determining the success or otherwise of mobile TV.
While Telstra's Next G network has an optimum speed of 7.2Mbps download, mobile phones currently available on the network can only provide speeds of half that. "In future, bandwidth will be like electricity -- it's just there whenever you want it. At the moment, it's like water, where it's 'do I have enough to use, can I have a good shower?'," he said.
Handsets themselves may also change to accommodate a move to TV, Milne believes. "It will have a massive effect on design," Milne said, leading to increased processing power, higher resolution screens and better battery life.