HONG KONG -- As telecom companies and broadcasters around the globe rush to
offer television services over mobile phones, China is taking steps to ensure
that its domestic players don't miss out on the potentially massive market.
Chinese broadcast authorities this week announced they will launch their own
technology standard for mobile TV. The Chinese standard is still in early stages
Regulators didn't suggest the domestic standard would be the only one allowed
in China. But the existence of a Chinese standard could ratchet up competition
between companies in the scramble to develop a dominant global standard for
mobile TV. Nokia Corp. of Finland and Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea,
for example, have already invested heavily in deploying mobile-TV services in
other parts of the world.
"The Chinese government wants to spin off as much homegrown technology as
possible," says Claus Mortensen, research manager for market tracker IDC in Hong
China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television didn't respond to
a request for an interview.
China has tried this homegrown approach to technology standards before. It
has been working for several years to develop its own standard for so-called
third-generation wireless networks -- the high-speed networks used to deliver
games, video clips and other data services to cellphones. But with alternative
3G approaches advancing more quickly in other countries, the Chinese standard --
not yet launched commercially -- isn't the only one being developed in China.
Cellphone service providers and broadcasters world-wide are trying to settle
on the technology and business models behind providing video content on
cellphones. China is the world's largest cellphone market, and analysts think
its consumers may be particularly receptive to mobile-TV services, since few
have existing pay-TV subscriptions, and because cellphone services beyond voice
are extremely popular in China.
One option for delivering video to cellphones is to stream or download video
clips over advanced 2.5G and 3G networks. In China, the influential Shanghai
Media Group has begun trials providing its content to cellphones with this
Another option is to broadcast video with a technology that works the way
digital radio does. South Korea was the first country to roll out such a
service, in 2005, using satellite and terrestrial versions of a Samsung
Electronics-backed system called Digital Media Broadcasting. As of March, more
than 500,000 handsets outfitted for the service had been sold.
Qualcomm Inc. has launched a proprietary mobile-TV service called MediaFLO in
the U.S. In Europe and Asia, an industry group that includes Nokia has been
touting a standard called DVB-H. More than 50 million DVB-H phones are expected
to be sold globally by 2010, according to estimates from Research firm Informa.
The planned Chinese standard, which bears the ungainly name GY/T220.1-2006,
could help local telecom providers, such as China Mobile Ltd. and China Netcom
Ltd., by reducing the amount of money they have to pay in royalty and
intellectual-property fees to foreign companies, according to Sandy Shen, a
telecom analyst with Gartner in Shanghai.
But both Nokia and Motorola Inc. of the U.S. said that the announcement would
have little impact on their plans to expand mobile-TV services in China and the
rest of the world.
"It is very natural that China is looking after its own interests in this
area," says Juha Lipiainen, Nokia's Greater China director of mobile-TV business
Motorola called the move "just another proof point that no single
transmission standard will dominate the landscape for mobile