Asia: Ripe for mobile TV services but tough picking

The Asia-Pacific region offers huge potential for mobile TV service, but not without challenges, says the CEO of SpeedCast.

The Asia-Pacific region may be ripe for mobile TV services, with its millions of enthusiastic mobile-phone users, but don't expect the picking to be easy, an industry executive said Thursday at a conference in London.

"The mobile phone has become the most ubiquitous electronic device in Asia," said Pierre-Jean Beylier, chief executive officer (CEO) of satellite service provider SpeedCast, at the Mobile Video & Television Summit. "And more people are watching TV than ever before in the region."

Combined, these two developments provide a basis for a potentially lucrative market, but some hurdles line the way, Beylier warned.

"Most mobile operators lack content production capabilities so they'll need to deal with numerous content providers, formats and rights issues, among other things," Beylier said. "Content providers, on the other hand, face regulatory, linguistic and, in some countries, censorship challenges, requiring them to adapt content locally."

SpeedCast is positioning itself as a company that can work between content providers and mobile phone operators, offering streaming technology as well as content acquisition, management and delivery services. The company is already delivering service to local operating units of France's Orange, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa and Britain's Vodafone Group, which are providing mobile TV streaming services over their 3G (third-generation) mobile phone networks.

Nearly 120 licenses have been issued for 3G network services in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Beylier.

Japan has been offering a broadcast analog mobile TV service for some time and is in the process of moving to a new digital service, while South Korea already has a digital offering based on DMB (Digital Media Broadcasting) technology.

"Asia is a very big but also a very different and complex mobile-phone market," the CEO said. "On the one side, you have the Japanese and South Koreans who are very technology and fashion-oriented and are quick to buy the latest gadget. On the other, you have China and India, two of the world's most populous countries with low but fast-growing mobile-phone penetration levels. This all adds up to a lot of potential, but plenty of challenges, too."

SpeedCast expects the market for mobile TV content to reach around Euro 6.5 billion (AU$10.37 billion) by 2006.

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