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10 Things About Mobile Video You Should Know

We have interviewed several hundred companies about mobile video products and services to understand the key issues and opportunities the mobile video industry faces. These company types range from manufacturers to service providers. We have performed reader surveys to determine what key issues and opportunities the mobile video industry is experiencing.

Mobile Video Content

Content is king and content cost can be high for certain types of content. Content distribution rights for television network programs range typically from 30% to over 50% of gross revenue obtained by the content provider (the mobile video system operator).

Early providers of mobile video services discovered some of the difficulties in obtaining programming that viewers wanted. While users were provided with access to more pay per view shows than were available on broadcast systems, viewers wanted local programming channels. Many of the mobile video systems currently offer unlimited viewing of 10 to 20 channels as part of their basic service rate plan and some of these are high cost network programs.

Mobile Video System Capacity

Mobile video system capacity is the maximum number of video signals that can be provided by a wireless communications system. The unit of capacity measurement for the facility or system depends on the type of services or information content that are provided by the system.

A typical mobile television signal has a data transmission rate of approximately 250 kbps to 500 kbps of data, which is 20x to 40x the data transmission rate for mobile voice services. When consumers are provided with a reasonable selection and TV signal quality (such as the Korean satellite DMBX system), they watch over 1 hour of mobile video each day.

To reduce the demand on system capacity, mobile broadcast systems are used. Mobile broadcast systems allow an unlimited amount of viewers to watch the same broadcasted signal. These mobile broadcast systems can currently provide approximately 10 to 20 simulcast medium quality (e.g. QVGA) broadcast signals. The mobile broadcast concept assumes that most viewers watch only a few channels and they will watch these channels using medium resolution devices.


Multimedia data consumption diagram

Figure 1, Multimedia Data Usage Patterns

As time progresses, users will want to have access to programming they are specifically interested in and they will want to have access to on demand programming (such as time shifted television). This will lead to the evolution of wireless systems to provide more capacity through the use of more efficient transmission technologies (such as improved modulation and smart antenna systems).

The usage patterns for voice, data and video are very different. Voice and data usage tends to be for very brief periods of seconds to minutes long and their use is distributed over an entire day. This allows for the service provider (the carrier) to allow several users to share each communication channel.

Unlike voice or Internet data users, television viewers commonly watch television channels for extended periods and they often view television at the same time as their neighbors (at the end of the day). This will dramatically increase the requirements for system capacity while lowering the number of customers that can share the same network communication channels (reduced loading ability).

Figure 1 shows a sample data usage pattern for different types of communication services. The usage pattern for voice (telephony) services is for low speed data transmission at 128 kbps (64 kbps in 2 directions) for periods of 2 to 3 minutes per call with a total daily usage of approximately 60 minutes. This results in a daily consumption of approximately 54 MB per day. The usage pattern for Internet browsing services is high-speed data at 1 to 2 Mbps for very short periods (1/10th to 1 second) with an average data transfer rate of 200 kbps. According to Neilsen ratings, the average Internet user browses the Internet for approximately 14 hours per month (28 minutes per day). This means their average consumption of data is 42 MB per day. The

usage pattern for digital video services is for high-speed data transmission at 2-4 Mbps for periods of 2 to 3 hours at a time. Neilson rating estimates that the total usage of television viewing is approximately 8 hours per household. This results in a daily consumption of 14.4 GB per day, more than 240 times that of telephone or Internet data usage.

Mobile Video Service Rates

Service rates are the fees that a user will pay for the transfer, processing, or authorizations to obtain benefits they desire. Service rates are typically divided into monthly fees and usage fees.
Many of the initial mobile video systems offered 10 to 20 video channels with a service fee ranging from $5 to $25 per month. Some mobile video service rate plans require the combination of other services (such as unlimited mobile data services) in addition to the mobile video program costs. Some of the more developed systems such as the Korean DMBX system have dramatically grown their subscriber base by reducing the monthly service fees. It is likely that some mobile video services will be provided free and funded by advertising.

Mobile Video Quality

Mobile video quality is the ability of a mobile device to recreate the key characteristics of an original video signal. Traditional video quality impairment measurements include blurriness and edge noise. Mobile video and transmission system use digital compression which has impairments that include tiling, error blocks, smearing, jerkiness, edge business and object retention.

People are more sensitive to freeze frames or stuttering video than they are to lower resolution (fuzzy pictures). Freeze frames can occur when television signals are momentarily lost or distorted such as those that occur during radio transmission. Mobile video impairments can be overcome through adaptive video compression and error coding that can be located at the edges of the communication system. The edge coding systems can dynamically change the resolution and frame rate allowing video signals to continue to play even in significantly varying conditions.


Interoperability is the condition achieved among communications and electronics systems or equipment when information or services can be exchanged directly between them, between their users, or both.

Unlike the closed (highly controlled) broadcast TV systems, there are compatibility issues with mobile video system equipment and services and these compatibility issues are likely to occur for a short time. Mobile video systems use a combination of technologies that are undergoing development and improvements. During our testing of mobile video portals, we have noticed that mobile video channels use different media players that use and/or require different parameters. This results in inability of the viewer to play some mobile video channels.

There are several companies that produce media players and their associated video compression coders, which is resulting in the war of the micro media players. The winner of the media player war game will have their media player installed in hundreds of millions of mobile devices and the associated media player software licensing royalties are likely to be worth billions of dollars.

Mobile Advertising

Revenues for mobile operators can come from subscription fees, usage fees and advertising revenues. Mobile advertising is the communication of a message or media content to one or more potential customers on a mobile device. Mobile advertising is commonly perceived as bad. However, given specific environments, sending advertising messages to mobile devices can be acceptable and even desired by the viewer.

Mobile video has the added advantage of being able to send advertisements to specific mobile devices (each mobile device has a unique network address). Because mobile video systems that can develop detailed profiles (viewing and personal preferences) of their viewers, they have the potential to increase advertising revenue per impression by a factor of 10 or more. This is because ads can more precisely reach their most desirable (target market matched) audiences.

Ads can contain information (potential solutions) that people want. People may be paid to watch ads or provided with credits (for premium program viewing) for watching ads. Some companies are providing mobile ads as pre-roll sponsors.

Battery Life

Battery life is the amount of time that a device will operate from a battery power supply when operating in a specific mode of operation. The battery life of multimedia mobile telephones may dramatically vary based on the modes of operation that are used (watching TV or talking on the mobile device). Battery life for mobile video devices is commonly rated by standby time, talk time and TV time.

Some of the key power consumption areas for watching mobile video include the radio receiver and media processing sections. Receivers will be constantly receiving video signals when the viewer is watching television programs. Many of the mobile video systems (e.g. DVB-H and MediaFLO) have been designed to allow the mobile device to extend its battery live by receiving video signal in burst format and sleeping between bursts (time slicing).

Media signals are decoded and converted into display format by digital signal processors (DSPs). The power consumption of DSPs is proportional to the amount of instructions (commands) and data they process. Video signals are highly compressed and they need to be decoded and processed into a form that can be displayed. When digital video signals are provided in some formats and different sizes, the media may need to be converted (transcoded) and resampled (resized) to fit in the display area. All of this processing consumes power and reduces the TV viewing time.

Content Ratings and Restrictions

Content ratings are the qualification and assignment of codes (rating) to content that identifies characteristics of the content. These content ratings can be used to determine suitable uses and distribution channels for the content.

Initially, mobile video service providers will determine which channels a viewer has access to. This will allow them and regulatory authorities to restrict access to content such as pornography and/or violent content.

As mobile system operators allow access to high-speed internet connections, it will be possible for viewers to watch any mobile video channel. It will be more difficult to rate and restrict content on mobile video channels and the media regulation authorities of one country will have little control over channels that are broadcasted to other countries over broadband Internet connection.

Unlike web pages that may have keywords that can be easily monitored, it is harder to detect unwanted content types such as adult and violent content in streaming media. Television programs have meta tags (short blocks of text that describe the content) in standard formats. However, service providers can (and often do) edit these meta tags to better market (more favorably describe) television programs to their viewers.

Rights Protection (DRM and CAS)

Content rights are the authorized uses and the allowable distribution methods that can be used for content (typically data or media). To ensure content owners have their rights protected, mobile video systems implement a combination of digital right management (DRM) and conditional access systems (CAS).

Digital rights management is a system of access control and copy protection used to control the distribution of digital media. DRM involves the control of physical access to information, identity validation (authentication), service authorization, and media protection (encryption). DRM systems are typically incorporated or integrated with other systems such as content management system, billing systems, and royalty management.

A conditional access system is a security process that is used in a communication system (such as a mobile broadcast television system) to limit the access of media to authorized users. Conditional access systems can use uniquely identifiable devices (sealed with serial numbers) and may use smart cards to store and access secret codes.

Because mobile video signals are usually provided in low resolution formats to devices that cannot easily store and transfer video program, rights management for mobile systems is not as significant an issue. However, mobile video content resolution is gradually increasing and mobile devices are evolving to fully accessible portable media devices so rights protection will become a more significant issue.

Screen Size

Screen size is the visible area of an image display (such as a computer monitor or a television screen). Screen size may be specified in resolution in pixels across (horizontal) and pixels between top and bottom (vertical). Visible screen size may also be defined by the diagonal length of visible area in inches or centimeters.

Screen size is initially an issue an issue for mobile devices. There is a fundamental tradeoff between mobile device size (small is generally better) and viewing devices (bigger is better). A solution to the screen size is the use of viewing glasses or projection devices. As the display options evolve, the viewer will be willing to watch more media. Who knows, maybe people will disconnect their satellite and cable service and only subscribe to mobile video services.

                        Mobile Video Magazine Editorial Mission

Mobile Video Magazine identifies and explains the technologies and applications that allow video and multimedia services to be provided through mobile communication networks. Readers learn about the types of systems and available options that are necessary to implement mobile video along with new features and applications and the business opportunities that are available in the mobile video industry.


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