Mobile TV in Africa: Alcatel-Lucent's on its implentations

Technology & Convergence

In Africa, and just as preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament are gathering momentum in most African countries, a few African mobile telephone operators signaled their intention to lead the market in the Mobile TV area.

Some service providers across Africa have launched or are in the process of rolling out Mobile TV as a way to complement their multimedia audience and revenues. Alcatel-Lucent is one of the main global providers of mobile TV and IPTV solutions to broadcasters and telecoms operators in Africa and elsewhere.

Balancing Act’s Sylvain Béletre interviewed Vincent Moreau at Alcatel-Lucent to find out more about the group's Mobile TV activities on the African continent.

Q: What is your role at Alcatel-Lucent?

A: I am the Mobile Multimedia Director at Alcatel-Lucent, Services Group. That includes the Mobile TV solution.

Q: When did you start providing Mobile TV solutions?

A: Our Mobile TV solution has been available on the market for several years. We are now releasing two major evolutions of this solution: "Smartphone TV", designed and tailored for smartphones users, and a multiscreen solution that expands any IPTV solution to mobile devices, allowing end-users to remotely program their home TV, or get any content anywhere.

Q: How many TV users do you support globally?

A: We are the leader in IPTV with more than 60 references and 6 million users.

Q: have you provided any Mobile TV solution in Africa?

A: Yes, we have recently delivered a MiTV solution to a major tier 1 operator. In the past, we have also delivered video streaming solutions for several African providers.

Q: How long does it take to implement such solution?

A: Standard deployment takes three months, but could be expanded to develop any bespoke customer request.

Q: In practical terms, what are the implementation phases?

A: Key implementation phases include:

1-defining the specifications, the business model and perimeters. That takes into account the expected number of active subscribers, the number of streaming sessions and the channel number; There are three types of channels: live TV, near-live (i.e. sport), and playlists. By allowing flexible reformatting of different types of content for mobile handsets, as well as the creation of play list-style programming, our solution addresses the needs of both content providers and broadcasters. As optional, we can include VOD on top of live TV programs. Our Mobile TV allows clients to blend live programs and on-demand content, seamlessly to consumers. Clients can then freely and cost-effectively create, shape, format, and distribute video content.

2-this phase identifies the best interface to use on mobile phones. That could be enhanced with custom packages such as what we call "rich media client" and extra interactivity. We can work with clients to provide specific skins for the mobile TV interface.

3-once the above are set, we get into the procurement phase. Our global delivery team ships the equipment to our local office where our engineers install the platform and the interface.

4-we then undertake acceptance and train the client's staff on how to control the solution.

5-lastly, we check that everything is in order by sending a special quality experts' team on-site whose job is to optimise the video quality.

6-we sometimes help launch the service if the client requires it. We now have a good experience of launching mobile TVs around the world and have learnt our lessons. We have experts who usually work together with the client's marcom departments to avoid any typical mistake and make sure the launch runs smoothly and leads to success. We can accelerate time to market and maximise return on investment (RoI).

Q: What type of software and equipment is required to set up a mobile TV solution?

A: The equipment includes application servers, streamers, encoders, and software clients for devices.

Q: Would you be able to provide a price range for acquiring this solution?

A: We have a very successful "compact offer" which delivers a high quality solution with standard services, at a very compelling price.

Q: Who are your mobile TV clients?

A: Approximately 80% of our mobile TV clients are telecoms operators, but we also assist broadcasters and content providers on a smaller scale.

Q: What is your business model for mobile TV? What is the right ecosystem to make it viable?

A: The business model varies according to the criteria I have mentioned earlier. We have the right tools to set up scenarios and identify financial returns. In some countries, you can start see a quick RoI above 50,000 to 100,0000 subscribers. The minimum number of subscribers also varies depending on ARPU and the country's economic outlook.

Q: Which African countries and SPs' do you consider as having real potential for mobile TV?

A: South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana among others.

Q: What type of wireless network do you need to implement a mobile TV solution?

A: We advise 3G.