We’re finding this very hard to believe: According to a PTI report, quoting official sources, India’s national broadcasting company Prasar Bharati, has “aggressive” plans to roll out Mobile TV services by the end of the year 2013; the overall plan is to expand these mobile TV services to at least 40 major cities, and Doordarshan plans to use DVB-T2. We’ve heard this before, and frankly, in our opinion, this plan will either not be executed, or even if it is implemented by Doordarshan, just won’t take off.

The handset ecosystem for DVB-H doesn’t exist, and it’s unclear whether handset manufacturers will invest in it. The reason why 3G handsets have grown is because they’re so deeply linked with the existing telecom operator ecosystem, and telecom operators essentially create the demand for these handsets by creating demand for 3G (and subsequently 4G services). Doordarshan’s ability to create demand – and justify mass manufacturing of these handsets – is questionable, as is a customer propensity for purchasing handsets with DVB-T2 just for Doordarshan’s channels*.

Remember that Mobile TV, specifically the multicast system (DVB-H, DMB, MediaFLO) doesn’t ride on telecom networks, and it’s the case of a broadcaster directly trying to reach consumers – essentially a digitized terrestrial broadcasting system. It means that here the broadcaster takes on the role of being both the content provider and the carriage service provider, unlike the current distribution model, where cable operators, MSOs, DTH and telecom operators deliver content by rolling out distribution networks. In case of digital broadcasting, broadcasters roll out the direct to consumer multi-cast network, and the Zee group’s stand on Mobile TV was particularly interesting – they asked for a Universal Broadcaster license, just like telecom operators in India have Universal Access Service Licenses

Also, from a policy perspective, the status of Mobile TV isn’t clear: the telecom regulator had made recommendations after a series of consultations.

The issue of there only being Doordarshan’s channels is addressed by choosing a Public-private-partnership model, and it’s strange that a PTI report in 2013 mentions that Doordarshan is “open to the option of private television channels using this platform and showcasing their content”. This is well known – we had published a series of stories in 2009 on Doordarshan’s Mobile TV plans. The plan then was to roll out phase one by the Commonwealth Games in 2010 (Ha!), wherein 16 channels would be launched, only 4 of which would be Doordarshan’s channels, and 12 would be those of Private broadcasters. The idea was to first launch in NCR region (Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida), and then expand to Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata, where Digital Terrestrial Transmitters are already available.

Some reading and documents on Mobile TV in India:

Mobile TV Consultation

Oct 24th 2007: Zee Moots Concept Of Universal Broadcaster For Mobile TV In India; Wants MediaFLO Barred
Oct 30th 2007: When Mobile And TV Combine
Jan 4th 2008: TRAI Recommends Infrastructure Sharing, Separate Licenses For Terrestrial And Satellite Mobile TV
Apr 16th 2010: Mobile TV India: TRAI & I&B Ministry Suggests 25% Limit On National Ownership Of Permissions
Mar 3rd 2011: Government Still Working On Mobile TV Regulations; Digitization, FM Phase III

Doordarshan’s Mobile TV Plans

May 21st 2009: Doordarshan Seeks Revenue Sharing Model For Mobile TV; Rollout Plans, HDTV, Digitalization
May 22nd 2009:On DDs Mobile TV Plans, Handsets Vs USB Devices
Dec 9th 2009: Doordarshans Digitization, HDTV Plans; What About Mobile TV?

Misc

Oct 20th 2008: PatentWatch: Mobile TV Receiving Device From Samsung Electronics

Devas, Antarix, Deutsche Telecom, ISRO

Aug 10th 2008: Mobile TV Co Devas Multimedia To Sell 17 Pc Stake For $75 Million To Deutsche Telekom
Aug 10th 2010:
Devas Multimedia-ISRO Mobile TV / Broadband Spectrum Deal Under The Scanner: Report
Feb 8th 2011: Spectrum Allocation To Deutsche Telekom Backed Devas MultiMedia Being Investigated
Feb 10th 2011: Devas Had Planned S-DMB Mobile TV Services; Notes From The Antrix Agreement
May 2rd 2011: ISRO Refuses To Divulge Minutes of Space Commission Meetings:Report
Jun 11th 2011: Devas Takes Antrix To International Court Of Arbitration; Seeks Restoration Of Deal

Documents:

TRAI Mobile TV recommendations
– DD’s Mobile TV Consulation Expression of Interest Document
Antarix – Devas agreements