MediaFlo ready for UK

A large slice of the upcoming IBC halls will be turned over to DVB-H, the TV-to-mobiles technology. For the past few years the mobile TV revolution has been expected to happen, with 2007 and 2008 both stated to be the year for a breakthrough. We wait with hope and maybe IBC will deliver a boost, but not for DVB-H.

Back in 2006, research specialists In-Stat said: “The greatest potential for this market rests with its ability to complement the existing video industry. For example, there will be over 50 million portable media players in use worldwide by 2008,” said Michael Inouye, In-Stat analyst. By 2008, however, the industry will begin to gain traction and demonstrate its long-term potential, the high-tech market research firm said in 2006.

In-Stat can hardly be blamed for getting its timings a little wrong. The European Union attempted to kick-start the industry by forcing a Europe-wide adoption of DVB-H last March, only to see its enthusiasm largely ignored by both manufacturers and the public. Norway has selected DMB for its system. Worse, a DVB-H system (Mobile 3.0) in Germany is about to abandon its plans. A White Paper from Parks Assoc suggests that Europe’s approach to DVB-H is more or less a shambles, despite some markets having individual success (notably Italy)

Meanwhile, just what is Qualcomm up to in the UK with its rival MediaFLO technology? It cheaply won Ofcom’s L-Band spectrum auction a few months ago by bidding just £8m for the bandwidth. Anecdotally, the story goes that Qualcomm was prepared to risk up to £20m for the spectrum, which had the effect of frightening the pants off the other bidders – not least near-bankrupt Worldspace.

Qualcomm’s MediaFLO division has made no secret of its wish to be closely involved in the UK “with the right partner”, and back in 2006 conducted a couple of technical trials with BSkyB, which – amongst other things – showed that MediaFLO delivered 20% more channels for the same bandwidth as DVB-H.

Now, with the spectrum in place and – seemingly – a willing partner in BSkyB, our advice is to watch the IBC space for an announcement. Sky would want a nice, efficient proprietary non-European system that is already proving its worth in the US, and where it supply channels and programming to users and perhaps even third-party telcos.