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 Monday, July 14, 2008

Since 2005, mobile operators are noticing a steady depreciation of average revenue per user (ARPU). The reality is the European mobile market is saturated with over 100 percent of its population owning mobiles. Revenue growth strategies rooted in acquiring new customers are rendered ineffective. As a result, providers scrambled for state of the art services and applications for mobile devices. Headed by Italy, Europe found success with this infotainment solution. By late 2007, 2.6 million Europeans were already using mobile TV. Now the future of the mobile market in Eastern Europe rests in the growing popularity in mobile TV.

"Mobile TV refers to the transmission of audiovisual content to mobile devices," reports Frost and Sullivan Research Analyst, Saverio Romeo. "It means viewing any content on the move, anywhere and anytime. This concept completely changes the usage of audiovisual services, and consequently, the consumer's experience. In fact, the mobility not only allows users to view content on the move, but also to share content on the point of inspiration with other users introducing new forms of interactivity."

Eastern European countries are already tapping into Europe's success. New technologies such as MediaFLO, T-DMB, DVB-H and TDtv are being reviewed in various countries. In Poland, the Office for Electronic Communications (UKE) has launched the tender for 38 channels to major cities within the country. In Russia, MTS, the market leader, is ready to launch a mobile TV service offering 20 channels. In Hungary, the four companies of Vodafone Hungary, Nokia-Siemens Networks, T-Mobile Hungary, and Antenna Hungaria together launched a trial of a DVB-H network in Budapest in January 2008. The Czech Republic and Romania will not be left behind. Since the end of 2006, T-Mobile Czech Republic is running DVB-H trials in Prague with the help of the media company, Radiokomunikace. Orange Romania is currently orchestrating trials in Bucharest.

The inspiring success story of the Italian mobile operator, 3 Italia, commanded the attention of western and eastern European countries alike. "In 2006, 3 Italia launched its mobile TV (DVB-H) service. 3 Italia started the service in time for the football world cup and so had an astonishing take-up rate. The reason for this success was quite simple," says Saverio. "Football supporters do not really care about technologies. They want to view their teams when they are not at home at a good quality and at a package, which meets the needs of their wallets. 3 Italia managed to do all of this. The Italian mobile operator gained 400,000 subscriptions in 10 months. At the end of 2007, almost 900,000 Italians used 3 Italia's mobile TV platform. At the beginning of June 2008, 3 Italia launched a mobile TV service out of charge and ad-based."

The 2.6 million current European consumers are driven by three major factors: content quality, cost of service, and cost of mobile device. Satisfying the target consumers, in Eastern Europe, brings challenges for the operators and providers. Success depends on having 3G and beyond 3G network coverage for unicast (streaming video to a mobile device via the cellular networks) and on-demand solutions. Operators and providers must also establish and pay for the high cost of quality network infrastructures like DVB-H. The regulatory framework should be established to allocate spectrum. Along with this, handsets with sufficient audiovisual functionalities and easy-to-use interface must be readily available. Finally, the price must be attractive enough to draw in a vast audience.

The evident success of this new mobile service offers an exciting opportunity for mobile operators and providers in Eastern European countries, as they jump on the mobile TV bandwagon.

Source: Cellular News.