By Roger Field
Amid the activity at Cabsat 2008, it is clear that one of fastest growing drivers of the industry is content, and mobile TV appears to be the form at the forefront
Amid the hub of activity at Cabsat 2008, it is clear that one of fastest growing drivers of the industry is content - and mobile TV appears to be one form of content at the forefront of many industry insiders' minds at this year's event.
Indeed, mobile TV appears to have a bright future, in the Middle East and further a field. For example, a recent study published by US market intelligence firm ABI Research suggests that the number of mobile TV subscribers globally will grow to 462 million by 2012.
Asia Pacific is likely to lead the world in mobile TV services, with 38 million subscribers regularly using the service at the end of the third quarter of 2007. Furthermore, the proliferation of 3G networks and subscriber behaviour in the Gulf market indicates that the Middle East will be a particularly lucrative hub for mobile TV.
But this also raises questions about the regulation and format of mobile TV in the region. The UAE's telecoms regulator, the TRA, already appears to have anticipated the trend and is rumoured to be investigating licensing issues with a view to awarding a licence in the second half of 2008. Industry sources also suggest that the TRA will follow in the footsteps of the European Union and adopt the DVB-H standard for mobile TV.
With so many variables, the business case for mobile TV can also sometimes look unclear. But with the backing of the world's leading handset manufacturer, Nokia, and the number-two handset vendor Samsung increasingly shipping technology outside its core markets of the Far East, the DVB-H standard looks set to dominate in the Middle East.
And with high-definition television also breaking into the mainstream, satellite operators also look set to benefit from a boom in satellite TV broadcasting. One such company that is helping provide the complex infrastructure that will make this type of service a reality is Al Yah Satellite Communications (Yahsat), a UAE-based satellite operator.
The company announced recently that it is planning to launch two satellites by 2011 in a bid to provide commercial and government services across the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Southwest Asia.
Yahsat intends to provide internet services via satellite, wide area networks and television transmission services, in particular for high-definition television (HDTV), following the launch of its satellites.
Yahsat's investment indicates the level of confidence that now prevails in the industry. The integrated satellite system, which Yahsat will produce through a supply contract with EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space, represents an investment of some $1.7 billion.
With this level of interest, the market for content is just one sector to watch at Cabsat 2008.