Learning Curve

Mike_short_picture_2_1As O2s Mobile TV trials continue in Oxford, O2 Vice President of Research and Development, Mike Short, who is also Chair of the Mobile Data Association, took time out from attending the Nokia Mobility Conference 2005 in Barcelona to tell Mobile Marketing a little more about the trials, and what the company hopes to learn from them. He didnt have long to talk to us – yes, this is a Short interview – but we felt what he said was interesting enough to share it with you.
The technology being trialled by O2 is not the on-demand video offered by Orange, Vodafone and 3. Instead, it uses a Nokia 7710 handset equipped with a tiny digital TV receiver, which receives live TV pictures via the DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld) standard. Its live TV, but on a phone.
400 triallists can access 16 TV channels, including the five main terrestrial channels, plus ITV2, and programming from British Eurosport, Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery Channel, MTV, ShortsTV, Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Travel. The trials are being run in conjunction with Nokia, Arqiva (NTL Broadcast, as was), and with the co-operation of several terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.

MM: What do you hope to learn from the Oxford trials?

MS: Theres a lot to learn from the trials, not just for 02 but for Arqiva,  our content partners,  and Nokia as our primary vendor. Part of it is a demand assessment trial. Its not just about delivering TV to a mobile, with 16 live TV channels. We also want to get some indication as to how much of each of the modes, cellular and broadcast, the users want.
Already in the normal cellular category, we are seeing a lot of use of the camera, because the handset has a large screen. Plus, users are reading a lot of email, so the normal use is quite diverse already, but when you add in TV, you want to know the relative mix of time spent on each activity.
We also want to know more about usage patterns, how much of which type of channel is watched the most and are there any variations by time of day. Also, we want reactions from the triallists as to how soon they interact with the TV programmes, because when you have a dual-mode device, youre not just watching, you can send photos in and email the studio. We want to know whether the interactivity between the two modes generates more usage.

MM: Any why are you investigating DVB-H when the other networks seem to be favouring on-demand or 3G TV services?

MS: Its not just us. We know that Vodafone and (Orange parent company) France Telecom have run trials on this technology elsewhere. Vodafone carried out a DVB-H trial in Berlin, and France Telecom are about to start one in Paris. T-Mobile, I believe, will carry some interim services during the World Cup next year.
If you look at single-mode cellular only, all carriers can offer video-on-demand downloads. But we all know that if you get to the point where you have 10,000 or 100,000 customers wanting downloads, it becomes expensive to do, so it makes sense to combine cellular and download modes to optimise cost and maximise the user experience.
So the question really is: Do you serve single-mode only and reach a ceiling called capacity or do you look at mobile TV being more about live TV than video-on-demand? We think its worth trialling.

MM: So do you see a day where we will have dual-mode devices than can deliver both on-demand and live TV services?

MS: We would need to see what the demand is, and also demonstrate it to Government, who have control over spectrum and the release of licensing rights. We are already seeing more interest from the TV companies as a result of this trial. Were also having a healthy dialogue as to what can be done today, as opposed to waiting for government decisions on dual-mode DVB-H.

MM: So what is the roadmap for DVB-H?

MS: It differs from country to country. In the United States, they are looking to deliver it next year. In Italy they are looking at 2007. In the UK they have said that some of the analogue switch-off needs to be more advanced before they will discuss the release of more spectrum. We will have final trial results in March and we will share some of them with the regulators and say to them: Look, waiting until 2010 does not seem right if countries like Italy can move now to launch in 06 or 07.
The broadcasters also are not comfortable with a long-term timescale. They would like to get on with delivering other types of content in single mode or dual mode.

Mike Short was interviewed by Mobile Marketing Editor, David Murphy


Read Mobile Marketings survey on consumer attitudes to Mobile TV.