DVB-H May Not Be Dead Yet


DVB-H May Not Be Dead Yet 

Yesterday's announcement that AT&T had agreed to purchase $2.5 billion in 700 MHz spectrum from privately-held Aloha Partners, parent firm of DVB-H proponent Hiwire, seemed to signal the end of DVB-H in the United States. Hiwire was the only remaining U.S. DVB-H player after Crown Castle International announced earlier this year that it was planning to spin off its Modeo business and exit the market. Hiwire was planning to use that 700 MHz spectrum to deploy a nationwide mobile TV network and this summer it launched a DVB-H trial in Las Vegas with partner T-Mobile USA.

But AT&T didn't just buy the 700 MHz spectrum from Aloha, it also purchased the Hiwire assets. I spoke with Scott Wills, president and COO of Hiwire, this morning and he said that those assets include the tower sites and the infrastructure equipment as well as access to the entire DVB-H ecosystem. He added that the current DVB-H trial in Las Vegas with T-Mobile USA will continue through the end of the year.

Wills wouldn't comment on the implications of this deal and AT&T has said that it's not sure how it will use the spectrum. But I think it's entirely possible that the operator will use that spectrum to deploy a DVB-H network and launch its own mobile TV service.

I know that AT&T is currently working with Qualcomm's MediaFLO subsidiary to launch a mobile broadcast TV service this year, but I've always felt that the alliance between those two parties was made because AT&T felt pressure from Verizon's broadcast TV offering (using MediaFLO) and the company felt the existing DVB-H players (Medio and Hiwire) were not progressing as quickly as AT&T desired.

But there's nothing stopping AT&T from using MediaFLO technology as a stopgap measure until the company can deploy its own DVB-H network using the spectrum it just purchased from Aloha.

I think there are some very compelling reasons for this strategy. AT&T could deploy a DVB-H network, offer more channels of programming than Verizon (Hiwire can offer 24 channels of programming while MediaFLO can offer just eight) and negotiate some interesting content deals that provide customers with programming whether it's over AT&T's U-Verse IPTV system, over AT&T's broadband network or over its DVB-H network. Doesn't this scenario fit with AT&T's three-screen philosophy?  I think it does. -Sue