MTN Mobile TV on its way

Digital Content

MultiChoice believes ICASA will issue a broadcast licence before the end of 2009 MultiChoice and MTN last week expanded on their plans to release a mobile television offering in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana in time for next year’s FIFA World Cup.

Earlier this year the two companies announced that they would be launching a DVB-H service, which could potentially feature up to 16 channels and stream digital mobile television to MTN subscribers.

MTN also revealed that it will have various Digital Video Broadcast services for Handhelds (DVB-H) for FIFA’s 2010 World Cup, including a personalised TV bouquet, a dedicated highlights channel, a dedicated blitz channel, interactive capabilities, SuperSport3, SuperSport5 & supporting soccer channels, video-on-demand, pay per use and a results channel.

Despite testing services since 2005, MultiChoice is still awaiting issuance of a license for the service from communications and broadcast regulator ICASA. Mutlichoice CEO for DStv Mobile Mark Rayner believes that it is simply an unfortunate time to be launching such a service in South Africa in relation to licensing issues. “The launch of mobile TV has come at an inopportune time due to the roll out of digital migration. ICASA has to perform an exhaustive and thorough sequence of events before it can issue licenses. The country still needs to finalise a national frequency plan, until this is cleared up the service cannot proceed.”

Rayner says the service experienced a “false start” in December due to e-TV’s petition to halt ICASA’s issuance of the required broadcast license. The channel was simply looking out for its own interests in this regard says Rayner, who explained that DStv has since dealt with e-TV “behind the scenes in this matter”.

Until a mobile television licence is issued DStv cannot give solid details regarding subscription prices for the service. Rayner did however confirm that the service would be launched at a subscription cost “comfortably under R100” and revealed that MTN’s official handset partner Sony Ericsson would be launching DVB-H ready devices for roughly R2 000 during the 2010 World Cup – a move which would make the service widely accessible.

DStv is currently concentrating on building a strong user base for the service. According to Rayner the service will be “subsidized or will operate at a very low profit margin to get the environment going”. When this has been achieved more bouquets and subscriber options will be released.

In terms of geographical availability Rayner assured interested subscribers that the service will be available in all major metropolitan areas for the FIFA 2010 tournament. “ICASA licensing indicates that we will roll out the service in each of the world cup host cities. Second tier cities such as East London will be rolled out at a later stage.”

Test licenses have already been issued for the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban regions. DStv, says Rayner, is currently ready to launch the service and all factors indicate that official licensing should take place “before the end of the calendar year”.

“If licensing is left to second quarter next year, you’ve missed the boat,” believes Rayner.