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I Don’t Want My MTV

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According to a recent trial held by mobile network 02, 80 per cent of the participants would be willing to pay £8 a month to watch TV on their mobile.

Really?

If you don’t have a 3G handset you many not know but you can already do this. Vodafone charges £5 a month for its service while Orange asks an eye-watering £10 a month. I can’t speak about the Orange service as I haven’t seen it in action but I can talk about Vodaphone's. To call it rubbish might be a bit harsh, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s rubbish. The problem is that I don’t believe that it delivers what people expect from TV and the reason for this is that despite the hype the 3G networks aren’t really up to the job.

It’s not that I don’t like 3G. I specifically wanted to have a 3G phone and, perhaps uniquely, love video calling. When I’m stuck late in the office I can call my wife and both see and talk to my little boy before he goes to bed. He loves it too and smiles, waves and gives me kisses down the phone. I think it’s fantastic technology. However, it seems like I’m alone in this. I’ve certainly never seen anyone else make a video call in real life and it seems that no other doting fathers that work late or even amorous couples have taken video calling to heart.

The mobile phone companies then are finding that the 3G spectrum that they spent billions on, is being wasted on stuff like voice calls and text messages, and they just can’t charge that much for those. Mobile TV though, is a great way of making use of the bandwidth and getting people to spend more money. It’s all about ARPU you see – Average Revenue Per User. Hence Mobile TV over 3G. But if you think it sounds great let me give you some real world feedback on what it’s like.

When I first tried using the service during the initial trial a few months ago the first problem I encountered was that I’d was rarely able to connect to a stream – I just got a page telling me that there was too much demand and that I should try again later. Hmm, you don’t get that when you turn on the telly in the lounge.

When I did get on, even in an area of good coverage, I never got a decent picture. Once I was standing outside in the heart of London queuing to get into the US Embassy for a Visa. Watching TV seemed like a good way to pass the time, but though I could happily stream or download news bulletins and Premierships goals the picture was generally an unwatchable mass of messy MPEG artefacts.

And even when I did get a stable image I found that I could barely hear as the sound level was too quiet. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the speaker on my phone is located at the rear. This means that unless you’re in a quiet environment you can’t hear properly but the same was true even wearing headphones. And then I realised that it wasn’t really live TV at all. It was just looped programming as the same content kept coming up. The other issue is that navigation is awful. At home you’re used to being able to quickly change channel but this is a video stream, so you have to wait to connect to the server, which takes a few seconds.

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