The Big Mo

Momentum for mobile television is building.
Whether there is a market for it or not, the wireless industry is getting serious about hawking mobile TV services. Oh, sure carriers have offered an assortment of such offerings in the past through companies like MobiTV, but the quality has never come close to matching the quality of standard television, and the channels have always been a B-list of names.
But after sampling Verizon Wireless’ MediaFLO-based Vcast Mobile TV service over the past couple of weeks, the quality issues have been overcome. The service still lacks a sufficient range of channels, and those that are offered are not quite “live,” but the pricing is aggressive.
Of course, Verizon Wireless has been quiet about promoting the new service, perhaps due to the limited coverage currently available. The carrier could also be keeping the service on the down low as to not provide free buzz to rival Cingular, which is planning to launch its own MediaFLO-based television service later this year.
Further blurring the lines between the two is that both have announced plans to allow customers to program their home digital video recorders using their cellphone. (Why don’t those two just get a room already?)
However, the No. 1 and No. 2 carriers could be trumped by No. 3 rival Sprint Nextel, which has an ace up its sleeve with its vast 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings and plans to launch a WiMAX network beginning later this year.
Sprint Nextel decided to pass on MediaFLO, but has made noise that it wants to be an “entertainment” company and has an ongoing (but limited at this point) partnership with a cadre of cable companies.
Sprint Nextel could take a page from U.K.-based operator 3 and offer a place-shifting service that would allow customers to watch all of their current cable television channels from a mobile device. 3 currently charges less than $15 per month for its service, which runs over its UMTS network; with the expected superior capabilities of WiMAX, along with Sprint Nextel’s deep spectrum pockets, such a service seems like a no-brainer.
This would not only allow Sprint Nextel to jump over its bigger competitors in terms of mobile TV offerings, but the current No. 3 would also own and control the network providing those services.


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