Mobile Video… No Interest, No Capacity… But It's A Killer App?

from the seems-a-bit-problematic dept

We keep hearing analyst firms claim that mobile TV is going to be the killer app for mobile data, even as there have been plenty of questions as to whether or not anyone actually wants to watch broadcast videos on their mobile phones. Plenty of people have wondered what the attraction is to mobile video, and studies have shown people just aren’t that interested… and yet the industry keeps forging forward on these efforts. Now, finally, some others are recognizing an issue that has been obvious for some time: wireless networks just don’t have the capacity to handle mobile video. That’s why all these new mobile data networks are so expensive. If people actually used the networks, they wouldn’t have enough bandwidth. Thus, they limit it with the pricing spigot. It’s also why companies like Qualcomm are investing nearly a billion dollars in a separate network just for broadcast style mobile video. It answers the capacity question, but seeing as it’s one-way broadcast (and a Qualcomm rep danced around this issue last week at DEMOfall without ever saying that they really would make the network two-way) it takes away most of the benefits of such an offering. People still use mobile phones to communicate much, much more than they use it to consume broadcast-style content. It seems the only people who are really big believers in mobile video are those who hope to charge for it. This is the opposite of how business decisions should be made. Look for a customer need that you can solve, not something that you can charge for that you hope, eventually, you can convince people they need.

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Comments on “Mobile Video… No Interest, No Capacity… But It's A Killer App?”

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Boo says:

ain't gonna happen

…at least not until we are carrying around phones with at least 15 inch screens – why would you deliberately subject yourself to paying through the nose to sqint at a tiny screen.

Actually you would have to create entirely new video content to make it worth while. Example: on the net when putting small pictures on a web page, you don’t just shrink a photo down small – you crop it for relavance, so that it’s viewable and you aren’t looking at people in the image with faces 3 pixels high.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Flo Can Be Used In A Two-Way...Kinda

The MediaFLO network itself is one-way broadcast, however, the initial target market is to handsets that already have GPRS, 1X or better. These handsets will get the FLO radios as additional radios, not instead of their cellular radio.

So, two way data the conventional way, and Video over the FLO network. DVB-H and DMB are much the same on this issue.

The real problem with the broadcast solutions is that they don’t offer flexibility in viewing schedules: that is, unlike a PVR or an Internet unicast, one cannot start, stop, and pause programs based on their mobile lifestyle (your bus arrived at your work, your train went into a tunnel). Instead, they must accept the same broadcast timing all the other users see.

That timing inflexibility is inconsistent with the “mobile lifestyle” and usage profile. Mobile content, and the phone itself, is a very personal device.

Eventually, the problem will be overcome by the progress in storage prices, and the fact that a 4GB hard drive or flash card can be stuck in the average phone. With this kind of storage, the phone ‘could’ receive the video broadcast signal, and store it for PVR-type viewing. That model would fit the mobile lifestyle.

However, the flaw in mobile broadcasting is that once this level of cheap storage is available in the phone, why the heck would a user pay the fees to view broadcast content, when they could simple use their home PVRs content, and move it to the phone’s storage? Why pay for cable-TV at home, and also for mobile-TV to the phone?

This is not that far away. I can do it today, albeit with some effort. A media PC can capture video from a cable source (I use my TiVo), and convert it to a digitized MPEG file. My Treo has a SD slot and can play .3GP video files. All I need to do is convert the MPEG to .3GP (the standards-based 3GPP format), and I can easily store a Gig’s worth of PVR video on my Treo SD card. Nokia has a free video conversion tool at,,034-63,00.html. It won’t be long before some company makes this process more painful, or even automatic (think of companies like ORB or Slingbox). So tell me again why I want to pay for mobile video from the carrier when I already pay Comcast cable $80/mo for content?

The last issue is the “live content” issue. Yes, an radio-based network is the only way to get the breaking news, latest sports video highlights, and event-in-progress video. But this is just a slice of the mobile video market. Just as most people watch DVDs in cars equipped for video today, most in-vehicle and mobile video systems of the future will use stored video which is cost-effective because it doesn’t use the limited radio spectrum. A segment of sports and news junkies will rely on broadcast or unicast video to satisfy their cravings.

Larry says:

Re: Flo Can Be Used In A Two-Way...Kinda

Agree with most of u’r pts in response to earlier comments. Broadcast model is essential to deliver real-time (ableit unavoidable time delay) access to news, weather-traffic, sports, financial mkts & the like. This, IMHO, is the most likely type of content to which users will want mobile access — not on-demand mobisodes or whatever catches their fancy. That’s what the home DVR is for.
Based upon my experience, the monied interests invested & involved in making this platform a profitable one, are primarily the studios, whose “expertise” is creating content, not delivering it. Sure, it may very well be possible to create a demand for their mobile video content, & this type of content IS BEING PRODUCED today (See, it’s my conclusion that they have turned a deaf ear on the more likely “killer-ap,” . . . real time news, traffic, sports, financial quotes. Is video necessary? No. But is it an enhancement? Certainly yes.

Nash says:

Qualcomm and Mobile TV

May be missing the real point. Qualcomm has a 6 MHz nationwide license in the Lower 700 MHz band. Mobile TV on their spectrum could be coupled with two way wireless high speed offerings of other lower 700 MHz licensees and potentially even compete somewhat with local tv stations and cable companies. Maybe it will work or maybe not, but the spectrum is certainly amongst the best available (as soon as the DTV Transntion ends).

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