TECHNOLOGY & CONVERGENCE

Nigeria: How Converged Video Can Switch Viewers On to Mobile TV

Bilal Saleh, Director Applications and Mobile TV Services for Motorola explains how the service characteristics of personalisation and convenience, driven by video convergence and supported by original value added products, can create the compelling experience that's imperative to switch on and retain a loyal audience for Mobile TV.

Standards and content. The fundamental building blocks for Mobile TV, standards and content, are falling into place. The industry is making progress on infrastructure interoperability and content management. Within the next 12 to 18 months, Mobile TV handsets will be available that aggregate content from different technologies (such as 3GPP Multimedia and DVB-H systems) and across service provider networks. Content has long been touted as 'king' in attracting viewers. And improved compression technologies are making it easier to digitise and distribute entertainment for a high-quality mobile viewing experience.

Moreover, while competition may be intense to secure exclusive rights to premium programming, there will be a wide range of content available as media owners chase increasingly fragmented audiences. With Mobile TV's foundations taking shape, how can the industry turn the fertile promise of TV on the handset into revenues? Our research and system trials show that personalised, convenient and original services, reviewed below, are key ingredients to making Mobile TV a 'must have' product.

Personalisation: Mobile TV will be a flexible medium. Accessed over a feature rich, highly personalised mobile device, subscribers will be able to quickly consume entertainment at times and places convenient to them. Users will benefit from 'time-shift' TV. So if a subscriber is watching a football match on their mobile device and has to enter a train station, transmission will be halted. But when they exit, the handset will offer the opportunity to recommence viewing.

It will also provide a prompt to replay critical action which may have been missed. As well as time-shifting, network technology will record what we watch and our favourite transactions. The intelligence will be applied to tailor services through the Mobile TV device. Analogous to a 'smart client', the TV-viewing screen will be surrounded by a 'context aware' border. This will house menu icons as well as services complementary to the programme. With football clips, this may include the option to view the season's goals, or to buy screen savers or ring-tones - all delivered seamlessly and charged to subscribers' accounts.

There will also be 'one click' access to content such as news clips, weather and favourite 'mobisodes' - programming designed for mobile consumption. The interface will seamlessly aggregate these feeds from the web and both cellular and broadcast TV systems. Personalisation will play a central role in engaging viewers. We're often asked 'what's the killer app' for Mobile TV. While the overall experience, in our view, will capture viewers rather than one particular product, it's when we have time to kill, that Mobile TV really comes into its own. By proactively offering services such as access to last night's goals to a fan on the train to work, Mobile TV will provide immediate, intuitive and personalised entertainment. It will be convenient too.

Convenience: The mobile device is a 'can't live without' companion. And, with an engaging and personalized single Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) its convenience and range of services will be significantly enhanced. The EPG will connect users with aggregated content from across networks including DVB-H, cellular and, IPTV systems. As well as searching and accessing favourite shows while mobile, the EPG will transform the device into a wireless remote control. So subscribers can send instructions to the set-top box or Personal Video Recorder (PVR) to record programming or download a movie.

They can also set alerts through the PVR to be prompted when categories of programmes such as 'sports' or 'soaps' they may want to watch live are available - either on the home TV or mobile handset. This example of technology's convergence, enhancing convenience, demonstrates how Mobile TV will enable users to consume entertainment to their schedule, not broadcasters'. Digital TV will extend beyond the living-room to provide a more fluid and ubiquitous entertainment experience. Such capabilities will be complemented by value added applications.

Value added applications: Think you've got a lot of digital data now from MP3s to MPEG videos? Think again. As digital entertainment becomes ubiquitous, we will all have a whole lot more 'stuff'. Service providers can protect these cherished files and make content delivery more efficient, by creating a converged media network.

In this converged network, subscribers can have access to secure online storage to catalogue their content and access it from any device including Mobile TV handsets. As well as making it easy to safely retain and protect content, it will also be a breeze to share it. Images or videos taken on the mobile device can be uploaded (using HSUPA networks) by subscribers to their digital stores and also to their friends' and families' libraries. When they switch on their mobile handset or home TV they'll receive a message informing them that they have new pictures to view.

It's a service that removes file-sharing from the PC which can be an unrewarding experience for many users faced with managing different file types, software and interfaces. These examples illustrate how a converged media network removes complexity and enhances Mobile TV with original and engaging value added products. The scenarios discussed highlight that Mobile TV, in a world of converged media infrastructure, will be part of an entertainment eco-system which moulds services to each subscriber's preference. Delivering this vision demands broad capabilities.

A broad technical compass Mobile TV will put the end user firmly at the centre of a seamless entertainment experience. An environment where a single EPG client harvests and controls the way we watch content from sources such as DVB-H (broadcast live TV), Live TV through unicast systems or 3G (with HSDPA) across mobile systems, IPTV, video on-demand and devices including PVRs and set-top boxes. Designed correctly, services will provide personal, convenient and original entertainment - a dextrous way for people to build an entertainment experience that's tailored to their taste and lifestyles.

Mobile TV demands a broad technical compass: networks must be aggregated, a single EPG created, retail systems (to sell content) must be developed, the provision of access to near-on-demand or on-demand content must be supported, all user transactions need to be recorded, users will require network storage, and interactivity and seamless connectivity is required across devices.

Mobile handsets will also need to be more intelligent, providing a primary interface to tailor the viewing experience to users. While these are clearly challenging requirements, at Motorola, we have broad experience across all components necessary to deliver Mobile TV and the converged media environment.

(Vanguard (Lagos), 17 March 2008)

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