Opinion: Want proper mobile TV? Move to South Korea!

September 11, 2007 at 6:43 pm 1 comment

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Not a day goes by without announcements about new mobile TV services in various countries around the world. They range from solutions that aren’t really TV at all, just thematically organized video downloads, to DIY channel creation and selection, and everything in between. But what about just being able to switch on your phone while you’re on the train and watch TV as if you were at home? You could argue that you’ve been able to carry around TV in your pocket for years with those ultra-portable TV’s made by the likes of Casio. And you’d be right. But when was the last time you saw anybody using one? Mind you, you probably haven’t seen many people watching TV on their phones either – unless you live in South Korea (LG South Korean TV phone pictured).

Sources report that mobile TV services are used by over 7.5 million people in South Korea, and that it has only taken two years to reach that level of usage from a standing start in 2005. What’s more, the government predicts that this number will increase to over 13 million by the end of 2008 – that’s more than 25% of the entire population! You’re probably thinking that there has to be something pretty special going on in South Korea that isn’t happening anywhere else, and you’d be right. In fact, there are several things:

  1. Mobile phones in South Korea access TV services via standard terrestrial and satellite TV signals, rather than streaming them over operator’s expensive data networks
  2. Terrestrial TV reception is free, and satellite services only cost $11 per month (with no data download charges to worry about)
  3. Handset manufacturers promote the free services heavily to encourage the purchase of high-end handsets
  4. Finally and most importantly, the government took responsibility for setting standards and allocating spectrum, and mandated the free terrestrial service to ensure demand.

Sports events, news bulletins and soap operas are said to be the most popular programs, which is unsurprising given that those are the kind of shows that get the highest audiences on regular TV.

South Korea’s approach to mobile TV shares similarities with its deployment of broadband Internet access, which is light years ahead of the rest of the world, with many residential buildings having access to fiber connections thanks to a government supported rollout. Unfortunately it also reflects local cultural and political mores which are very different from those that prevail in Europe and the US. Vested interests are far too entrenched in the west for this kind of model to be replicated elsewhere. Nevertheless, perhaps operators, regulators and other stakeholders will at least recognize how much progress can be made in a very short space of time when everyone pulls in the same direction. Anyone know how much a ticket to Seoul costs?

Hamish M.
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Entry filed under: dvb-h, dvb-t, mobile applications, mobile content, mobile tv, mobile video.

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1 Comment

  • 1. TV » Opinion: Want proper mobile TV? Move to South Korea!  |  September 28, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptBut what about just being able to switch on your phone while you’re on the train and watch TV as if you were at home? You could argue that you’ve been able to carry around TV in your pocket for years with those ultra-portable TV’s made … […]


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