Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued recommendations to draw out a policy framework for mobile TV services in India. Doordarshan launched its mobile TV pilot with Nokia by starting to beam eight Doordarshan channels on mobile TV in May. Reliance also has launched a mobile TV service for its subscribers. While bandwidth issues are still holding back the adoption of mobile TV in India, the launch of 3G services may give it the much needed fillip. Globally, eMarketer expects that there will be 100 million paid subscribers of mobile TV by the end of 2009.
According to TRAI, the issues that need to be addressed by the mobile and broadcasting industry are preferred technology for mobile television service, preference for satellite or terrestrial system, spectrum requirements for mobile TV terrestrial broadcasting, method for frequency spectrum allocation and eligibility for grant of licence. TRAI has also sought the suggestions of stakeholders by September 30 on these issues.
TRAI recommends that a unified technology be named for India from among the various technologies such as unicast mode, 3G network, or digital video broadcasting-handheld (DVB-H), which is currently the technology on which DD is operating its mobile TV. Telecom operators such as like Airtel and Reliance are offering mobile TV using 2G and 2.5G (second-generation mobile networks), through a server which broadcasts the content to the mobile (unicast mode). The paper suggests that a combination of technologies may also be used.
Regarding the spectrum in which mobile TV is broadcast, there are two options - transmitting through the mobile phone network or through satellite. TRAI suggests that the choice should be made keeping in mind the existing demands on radio or mobile spectrum in the country.
TRAI also aims to place mobile TV operators in a new category, like DTH operators and cable operators. There will be specific guidelines and licence parameters put in place to give legal status to mobile operators.
It also recommends that the entry fee for the unified licence should be brought down to Rs 5 crore from the Rs 107 crore recommended earlier. TRAI suggests that the licence should be distributed in the same manner as mobile operators.
The regulatory body has also asked the government to fix an FDI limit for mobile TV consistent with other media.
The questions being raised are well timed as mobile TV emerges in India. Mobile TV cannot operate on a subscription based model alone, so it will have to reach advertisers and investors for its growth. The technology and implementation guidelines for mobile TV will decide how much mileage advertisers can get out of the budding medium.