The ups and downs of the mobile Tv chipset market

POSTED BY Global Administrator
It appears that we have a disagreement amongst chipset manufacturers.

Mobile TV is on its uppers, according to Yannick Levy, CEO of DiBCom.

No it isn’t, says Weijie Yun, his counterpart at Telegent.

Well, I’ve paraphrased a little. Before chiming in with my own six penn’orth, let me elaborate. At Computex last month, Levy said that the market for mobile TV chipsets was in decline and would fall by 20-30% in 2009, a fact partly ascribed to the need for substantial investments in DVB-H network rollout and service provision costs. For his part, Yun said that in markets where free-to-air, terrestrial TV has been made available via the mobile, adoption has been rapid.

Right then. Six penn’orth coming up, and, sorry Yannick, but I’m going with Weijie on this one.

While Levy is right inasmuch as there is a general malaise affecting DVB-H, there is a strong case for suggesting that this decline is in fact a corollary of the success of chipsets (such as those produced by Telegent) in enabling chipsets capable of receiving both analogue and digital (DVB-T) terrestrial signals with a relatively low power consumption. For the consumer, this means that your battery doesn’t give up the ghost twenty minutes into the footie match; for the TV companies, it means that they don’t have to build a dedicated network for consumers to receive said footie match; it could therefore be said to obviate (or at least significantly reduce) the need for DVB-H.

There has certainly been substantial interest in such free-to-air TV across a number of markets: Telegent said that it had delivered more than 20 million chipsets by early 2009. And in Japan, where digital mobile TV is received via the terrestrial network (albeit, one must say, a network built around a technology – ISDB-T – which facilitates mobile reception) it has been remarkably successful: the overwhelming majority of handset models now feature an ISDB-T chipset.

The problem with mobile TV of this ilk is that it doesn’t enable the service provider to charge for the service: it simply replicates the free terrestrial offering. I would argue that in some markets, there is an opportunity for both free-to-air (terrestrial replication) and paid-for (dedicated network) mobile TV, the latter offering both exclusive made-for-mobile content and screenings of premium events (e.g. those footie matches not currently available on terrestrial): Japan in particular would seem to be a prime market for a combination of services.

But to return to the question of chipsets: in absolute numbers, across all technologies, I would be astonished if there were to be a decline. However, if one were to qualify that by including only chipsets designed to receive dedicated mobile broadcast TV networks, then Levy could well be on the money with his prediction.

Although, in that case, his statement in February 2008 – that mobile TV had “hit rock-bottom in 2007”  - would have been proved wrong. Still, you can’t be right all the time...