The licensing process being followed, muliple technologies and limited handsets for terrestrial mobile TV services may spell a difficulttime for mobile TV
Indian regulator TRAI Announces Mobile TV Licensing Recommendations for India
The Indian regulator for the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors has issued recommendations for licensing of Mobile TV services in India. This completes the process of consultation on the Mobile TV and places the onus of announcing the License Policy on the ministry of information and broadcasting ( MIB).
The licensing regulations primarily address the terrestrial broadcast mode for mobile TV. No recommendations have been made for the satellite mode of mobile TV services delivery, which incidentally had found a prominent place in its draft recommendations issued on 3rd Jan 2008. It has also left the mobile TV on cellular networks ( GSM, CDMA or 3G networks) to be governed by the operators mobile telephony( CMTS) or universal services licenses( UASL).
The salient features of the Mobile TV policy recommendations are as follows:
- Technology Neutrality (i.e. DVB-H, DMB or FLO technologies have been permitted along with others).
- 74% FDI permitted, but no broadcasting or Cable TV company can hold more than 20% in a mobile TV company. Likewise a mobile TV company can not hold more than 20% in a broadcasting or Cable TV company
- Licenses to be issued for each “Circle” or for the entire country based on a bidding process for licenses.
- Each licensee to be issued Spectrum of 8 MHz in UHF band V(585-806 MHz), only one license( or one spectrum slot) to be permitted to any one company
- 4% of gross revenues or 5% of the highest license bid; whichever is higher; to be paid as revenue share every year
-Net Worth requirements of $0.75 Million ( Appox.) per service area. This translates to about $15 million for the country.
-Services to commence within 18 months; enforced by a performance bank guarantee of $0.5 million for each service area ( $11 million for the country).
- Content to be regulated by the content code of the MIB
Comments on the recommendations
-The mobile TV licensing recommendations as issued are quite onerous in terms of the license fees and ongoing revenue shares. The performance bank guarantees are also very high.
-Linking of annual revenue share to 5% of the highest bid for an area seems to lack any logic as a rouge bid would imply all operators needing to pay a very high license fees.
- By placing equity cross holding restrictions on broadcasting companies, it virtually prohibits such operators to extend their services to the mobile screen- a natural extension.
This means that different companies need to be formed for each screen size or mode of delivery.
- The mobile TV services, per se, have not been defined. Does mobile TV mean delivery to mobile devices or does it mean to those with a specific screen size such as QCIF or QVGA or is it by basing it on terrestrial broadcast.
- The recommendations are silent on the relationship pf mobile TV with standard definition terrestrial TV (such as DVB-T). In most implementations DVB-H services can be delivered on the same carrier as that used for DVB-T. The same is the case in ISDB-T technology used in Japan. In the recommendations now issued, such operation has been ruled out.
- The recommendations make no reference to other delivery extensions such as WiMAX, another mode of delivery of mobile TV Technologies.
- Interchangeability of handsets has been prescribed between different service provides ( if the handsets are provided by them). This is tricky with various versions of the same technology much less between different technologies. An example is the DVB-H technologies based on OMA-BCAST or DVB-CMBS implementations.
- The recommendations are silent on audio services to be provided on the same media. At present the FM, to which parallels have been drawn throughout, does not permit news and current affairs.
- No requirements are placed on mobile operators to give a reference interconnect offer for the return path, which may be critical in many implementations. The mobile operators providing services on their own networks have a conflict of interest with the broadcasters providing services via a terrestrial medium- the subject of current licensing policy.
- All mobile TV licensees are required to share their infrastructure with other mobile TV licensees. This can lead to a wait and watch game in the 18 months leading to the launch of services to piggyback on the operator which launches services first, though it is expected that Doordarshan infrastructure may initially be used by all licensees. This can have serious implications if a company setting up infrastructure can not derive a competitive advantage from the same. The cellular operators however have been kept beyond the purview of such compulsory sharing.
- The FDI of 74% is inconsistent with the current licensing policy in the media sector where 49% is the norm.
- If the licensing process as outlined by the TRAI results in multiple operators in different states, the phones will have no interoperability and limited utility limited to a city. ( See Chapter 9, Interoperability in Mobile TV. ( www.mobiletvbook.com).
On the whole it appears that the ministry of information and broadcasting which sought the recommendations in the first place may have a hard task to maintain a semblance of uniformity of treatment to broadcasters as against cellular operators for providing the same service.