Mobile TV coming to Washington, D.C., Will anyone use it?

As I reported last month, mobile TV to be launched in Washington, D.C soon. The implementation and testing are currently underway. I’ve been also doing some research on such a service past three month or so which has made me to think whether this is something the Washingtonian want. Most of the studies I have been reviewing on Mobile TV are not really optimistic about its  value and growth.

No doubt the smartphones usage and their connection speeds have taken off since the inception of iPhone back in 2007, but mostly for communication and seek of information. At the end of 2008, the U.S. market had a smartphone penetration rate of 15%; it’s currently at 24% and The Nielsen Co. is predicting we’ll see a 49% adoption rate by the end of 2011.

In the latest study conducted by the USC think tank, it found that mobile video consumption is still woefully underused. Even more discouraging than the level of use, It looks like one of the main reason that has contributed to this, both mobile TV and video have failed to live up to the hype: it’s still a poor experience for most users.

Not to mention the distribution rights as another big challenge media companies still face in the mobile world. I would say one of the biggest challenge. You can be sure though, if these large companies saw enough reason to secure mobile rights on their own, it would already be done. The bread-and-butter business for BET and its counterparts is still in broadcast television and cable – there’s no sign or reason to think that will change anytime soon.

From the carrier side of the game, Verizon wireless also  admits premium content services haven’t taken off as they hoped it would.  So this says a great deal about what the majority of Verizon’s subscribers want from their smartphones. “Although the data usage have jacked up eight times since the launch of  Droid, the top mobile video category will be self expression and user-generated content, particularly once two-way video gets its legs” according to Verizon Wireless.

Lastly, there are three monetization models that mobile content providers can pursue: licensing deals, premium models where customers pay directly for the content consumed and ad-supported offerings. Well, none of them have been happening smoothly. So not a great ROI for them yet. Till then, I think the  media companies will view mobile as an experiment and not a solid business model.

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About Elias Shams
I have been a serial entrepreneur in telecom and social media space for past 12 years or so. I hold a M.S. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the George Washington University and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. I’ve lived and worked in many countries and cities including London England, Tehran Iran, Bonn Germany, Paris France, Alicante Spain, Delhi India, and my favorite of all Washington, DC of great US of A. Two of the greatest Washington, DC based companies I worked for and very proud of are Yurie Systems which was sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1.23 B and that I founded in 1999. I am currently the founder and awesomizer @

8 Responses to Mobile TV coming to Washington, D.C., Will anyone use it?

  1. I would use it if the picture and sound quality was decent.

  2. Elias Shams says:

    Bingo! referring to the 2nd paragraph, that is the main problem.

  3. I had an earlier version of mobile TV that was BAD. I got charged $10 monthly for choppy video and poor sound quality. I got rid of it after a month.

  4. I am in general do not believe that mobile TV and content is or even will be a good business model. At the moment we have a very interesting situation in the communication industry, the gap between two tech eras. The existing one is close before the expiry and the new tech era hasn’t probably not even defined yet. New mobile devices will be available soon with full Internet access, and therefore the consumers have it all.

  5. Mike Browne says:


    A number of years ago I got the URL “DinkyTV”, I think I will be waiting a while till hand held TV is a big thing.

  6. Darren Yan says:


    The governments in the EU and Asia play an important supporting role to create the environment suitable for such innovations to take place which are now transitioning to commercially-ready platforms for the private sector.

    Such support are recorded as fiscal spending on the government’s balance sheet, but is considered by many governments outside of the US to be an investment to create future economic growth.

    There is an ongoing debate on these issues in the United States, and I am hard pressed to suggest if the current situation you described in your question will change for the better in the short-term.

    Darren (Singapore)

  7. Tanuj Raja says:

    The reasons are varied;

    1. Great connectivity via cable and internet and lack of guaranteed Quality of Service in the US reduces consumer demand
    2. Lack of clear FCC rulings until 11/09
    3. Lack of good, low power solutions for mobile devices.
    4. Lack of incentive for the US carriers to allow Free Over the air mobile TV vs. specific subscription based pricing models such as FLO TV and VCAST.

    Overall, US has been generally behind in mobile technology adoption by 5 years, example – WiFi on planes. FCC is the gating agency and has been slow to move with the pace of innovation. Things are changing though
    – the carriers are quickly realizing that they have limited BW and Mobile TV will eventually become a part of the overall ecosystem
    – Broadcasters have a new untapped ad based model for additional revenues.
    – Whitespace applications are now being allowed by FCC which will spur spectrum usage which was otherwise restricted.

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