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Zee Moots Concept Of Universal Broadcaster For Mobile TV In India; Wants MediaFLO Barred

The Zee group has come out all guns blazing on the issue of allocation of licenses and spectrum for Mobile TV in India. The group has told the TRAI in comments submitted on Mobile TV that just having the capability to transmit TV content doesn’t mean that Telecom operators do not need a license for media sector services. Zee has mooted the concept of a Universal Broadcaster, allowing existing broadcasters to offer Mobile TV, making the case for DTH operators like Zee’s Dish TV to be automatically permitted to extend their transmission to mobiles and be granted spectrum. “Universal Access Service License (UASL) licensees” (like telcos), says Zee, should need a separate “Universal Broadcaster License”. In addition, licenses should be awarded only to those companies with a minimum of 10 years experience in running channels of all genres, with an experience of a minimum of three years of operating an encrypted Pay TV service in India. I think that rules out everyone apart from Zee.

Zee has also asked for Qualcomm’s (NSDQ: QCOM) MediaFLO to be barred since India has been following the DVB standards, and no spectrum for Telecom or WiMax operators. The group has advocated the use of terrestrial spectrum only, and that DTH operators be granted terrestrial transmitters so as to use both satellite frequencies and terrestrial transmission. In terms of Foreign Direct Investment into the mobile TV segment, Zee wants it to be in line with DTH operators — 49% Foreign Equity Cap for the company, of which no more than 20% from any foreign investor in DTH Services — thus ruling out telcos, which have a 74 percent limit. Sony (NYSE: SNE) Entertainment Television (SET) however, wants 100 percent FDI to be allowed.

More pre-Diwali fireworks in the extended text

Zee has also asked the TRAI to club the licensing of Mobile TV and Terrestrial TV, since DVB-H is an extension of DVB-T, and allow city-wise licensing of Mobile TV. Mobile operators and lobbying groups like the AUSPI (CDMA operator group) and COAI (GSM operator group) want exactly the opposite. Telcos obviously want no new license for existing UASL operators, but new ones for Standalone Mobile TV operators. AUSPI wants the service to be limited to UASL holders – mostly mobile operators., and for the Mobile TV license to be based on the area of operation under the UAS license; others want spectrum to be allocated according to telecom circles. Airtel also wants spectrum to be allocated only for DVB-H or FLO. The COAI has pushed for 3G, saying that it is the fastest way to get Mobile TV off the ground. Reliance wants the spectrum to be auctioned (hence more expensive, higher stakes), while most stakeholders prefer allocation based on usage. The third major broadcaster – News Corp owned STAR India, has been rather muted in its comments, playing the nice guy and asking for a level playing field.

Clearly, there are areas of disagreement between the stakeholders, and one should expect more fireworks at the TRAI Open House discussion (details here, pdf) on 26th November in Delhi. Let me know if you’re attending – nikhil AT contentsutra DOT com. In the meantime, all the above comments and more are available at the TRAI site.

3 Responses to “Zee Moots Concept Of Universal Broadcaster For Mobile TV In India; Wants MediaFLO Barred”

  1. The regulator has now announced the draft Policy for mobile TV, which is based squarely on the treatment of mobile TV as a different service, a different spectrum band and a different transmission from any terrestrial transmissions.
    How out of place it is, can be seen from the recent development of mobile pedestrian handheld (MPH) and its demonstration at CES 2008.
    LG Unveils Mobile Pedestrian Handheld (MPHâ„¢) technology at CES 2008, Las Vegas

    LG has unveiled the MPH technology for delivery of TV for handhelds in the United States and other countries using the ATSC standard. This could be one of the most important developments in the field of Mobile TV for North America, which does not have the advantage of DVB-H technology being able to ride on the DVB-T networks being installed currently in many regions of the world including Europe and Asia.

    This time, the advantage, however appears to be with the MPH technology as it does not need any additional spectrum. The MPH can enable any device for mobile TV by the use of miniature cards or USB attachments.

    This implies that within a year, all mobile devices, such as personal media players, gaming devices or cell phones could be enabled for mobile television programming reception. The reception is possible upto 90 Kilometers per hour, which is a reasonable speed in city conditions.

    MPH is based on highly efficient MPEG4 encoding coupled with VSB transmission of mobile TV content. The key advantage of the technology appears to be the use of the existing frequency spectrum used for standard definition or high definition digital television transmissions as well as the existing transmitter infrastructure, with only an additional exciter.

    This can turn out to be a major differentiator, as spectrum costs can be very high. Many countries ( such as India, for example) are set upon auctioning the mobile TV licenses based on the fact that it needs to use additional spectrum. The license pricing is essentially the price of the additional 8 MHz spectrum.

    The new technology, once in place will create a totally new universe of receiving devices with personal media players(PMPs), gaming devices, Standalone TV mobile receivers coming into vogue.

  2. The comments of Zee for declaring a universal broadcaster need to be seen in the light of the policy of UASL in telecomms, which can provide all other services without additional licenses. The recent recommendations on IPTV, which is permitted without further license to all UASL holders, ISPs( Net worth over 100 crore) and Cable operators is a step in this direction.Broadcast and Telecom form two different categories- onne where media regulations ( FDI) are applicable and other where they are not. ( Telecom). The FDI requirements are also different. There is a need to simplify the field for broadcasters also on the lines of UASL so that any mode of delivery terrestrial, satellite or DTH be considered on the same basis.

  3. Why limit the use to just Zee Tv or Sony Channel, etc.?

    Consider using a service called Slingbox, that allows all content, not just Zee channels to be streamed. This way you can have media with you at all time, streamed directly into your mobile device.

    Check out http://www.interval.in for the latest Hindi movies online or streamed directly to your mobile device .

    Relax, take a break at Interval.in
    Enjoy!