Mobile TV is in the middle of a hype cycle

Since 1995, Gartner has used the notion of a "Hype Cycle" to describe the over-enthusiasm and following disappointment that typically happens with new technologies. It lists five phases of a hype cycle that begins with a technology breakthrough, followed by over-inflated expectations and then a period of disillusionment, when the grand pronouncements are gone and little a word is said about the technology. Yet, behind the scenes, businesses continue to experiment to understand the practical applications of the technology. And finally, the hype cycle is over as the benefits of the technology become widely accepted.

I'd say mobile TV has entered that period of disillusionment. It was just a few trade shows ago that vendors everywhere heralded the coming of mobile TV and its fat revenues. During this year's CTIA I.T. show, we hardly heard a peep about it. Two potential mobile TV operators Aloha Networks and Modeo have bowed out of the market, while we've seen a number of vendors distance themselves from the idea of mobile TV. AT&T is postponing its planned launch of MediaFLO service until the beginning of 2008, and we have heard nothing about Verizon Wireless' success with MediaFLO service since it launched it in February.

Nor is mobile TV ramping up as expected outside of the U.S. Part of the problem has to do with a fragmentation of standards that seems to grow as more systems come online. New technologies such as DVB-SH (a satellite/DVB-H hybrid), MBMS cellular mobile TV and now WiMAX are all candidates besides DVB-H. The lack of spectrum availability has also slowed down rollouts.

Once the industry finishes jumping through these hoops, however, operators still have to figure out what type of business model gets subscribers addicted to the boob tube on a mobile phone. (Stage No. 4 in the Gartner Hype Cycle.)

I suspect mobile TV will settle into the mobile data portfolios of operators, making an impact as part of a suite of services--just like we've seen happen with many services that have been over hyped in the past, such as mobile gaming and location-based services. The question is, when?--Lynnette

P.S. To hear all the scoop that occurred at last week's CTIA Wireless I.T. and Entertainment conference in San Francisco, join FierceWireless' editor-in-chief Sue Marek as she talks with industry insiders Linda Barrabee of the Yankee Group and Andy Seybold of Andrew Seybold Inc. during the Webinar, "Behind the Scenes at CTIA I.T. Show," at 2 p.m. EST, on Nov. 1.  Register here.