For operators pondering mobile TV, the options for deploying services are increasingly splitting into two camps - those that require all-new infrastructure and spectrum, and those that utilize existing 3G networks.
Mobile TV technologies like DVB-H and DMB have been touted as more efficient ways to deliver mobile broadcast video because of the impact of high-quality video on 3G bandwidth capacity.
"If you do streaming video over a 3G network, your cell shrinks," says Sean Koh, regional technical manager for multimedia and messaging solutions at Siemens. "DVB-H lets you do streaming video so it doesn't eat into your cellular bandwidth."
However, some vendors say that operators are looking for less expensive options than building a new network for mobile TV.
"Building a new network is expensive, not just in terms of new equipment but also in terms of licensing content and acquiring spectrum," said Lara van Rooyen, marketing manager at Ericsson.
As such, solutions are emerging that leverage existing network infrastructure, from the upcoming MBMS (multimedia broadcast multicast service) standard from the 3GPP to using the 3G-324M standard for circuit-switched video calls.
That said, with dozens of trials of DVB-H and DMB underway around the world, there's some debate over just how concerned operators really are about infrastructure costs.
"The much bigger question for them is what will it take to get a broadcast network up and running‾" said Nick Pilbeam, Asia-Pacific networks and enterprise MD for Motorola's strategic business division. "For example, you need as many channels as possible, because people won't just watch what you give them. So if that's the driver on the revenue side, then you need a technology that can support it."
Whatever technology operators choose, Pilbeam added, they should tailor the network's design and capacity around how users consume mobile TV content.
"Mobile TV was originally envisioned as a primarily outdoor service, but in fact trials suggest that people are more likely to use it indoors. Also, unlike traditional broadcasting, the antenna is moving much, if not all, of the time," he said.
Ericsson's van Rooyen agreed. "Only a small percentage of users will watch the usual broadcast channels - the rest are more likely to watch more specific, on-demand content that's driven more by menus than schedules. It's a whole new way of watching TV, and operators must plan their networks for that."