Is TV really the killer app for WiMAX?

In response to a previous post about Rupert Murdoch and possible role of WiMAX in his future expansion plans, a reader responded, by saying, “My feeling is that TV-over-WIMAX is something very futuristic, or just impossible.”

He might be right, but that is not going to stop companies from trying to make it happen. MobiTV, well known for its television-to-the-mobile phone service, says it is now going to work with the WiMAX forum, and will participate in a TV-over-WiMAX trial in some Northern California cities. MobiTV will also show off an experimental network built with Navini Networks’ Ripwave gear that can deliver HD television.

The Northern California based Proof of Concept network will provide an environment to evaluate a variety of mobile WiMAX applications, including mobile television broadcast, video-on-demand, navigation and general network access. A second Proof of Concept network will be deployed in Taipei, Taiwan under the direction of the National Taiwan University.

It should not come as a surprise, since the company executives have been openly talking about making their service work on any kind of network. While these are interesting developments, one has to be careful to not get too carried away, as our reader warns us.

MobiTV currently offers a television-over-WiFi product that is nimble enough to work over 300-to-500 kilobit per second wireless data stream. It has a couple of dozen channels, and can make for a pleasant viewing experience on a laptop, and even some larger screens. ??An offering similar to that can easily be delivered over fixed wireless or Mobile WiMAX networks (if and when they materialize) but lets not mistake that for a full screen HDTV experience. That would require some serious bandwidth – a serious shortcoming with WiMAX for now.

A thought that nags me is about – do we really need TV over WiMAX. Why not just simply offer bandwidth and let people figure out what they really want to do with it? But that just might be too rational a thought. Expect to hear a lot about TV-over-WiMAX in coming months – after all video is the new pretty thing, and everyone wants to talk (if not actually deliver) convergence. Many might have convinced themselves that TV-over-WiMAX could be the ultimate killer app!

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