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Monday, March 12, 2007

Sprint: MobileTV Plans

I’ve been trying to figure out over the last couple of weeks the Sprint plans in the mobileTV arena now that both Verizon Wireless and Cingular have committed to Qualcomm’s MediaFlo technology.

The options are as follows:
1. Do Nothing - because Sprint does not believe in the economics of MobileTV. This would be an extremely brave decision for the Sprint executives to take, especially since the Verizon and Cingular executives are fully committed.
2. Don’t Want Qualcomm to take the role of Content Aggregator. I can see this as possible especially given the Sprint ties to the Cable industry. Nobody in their right mind would deliberately go and upset a group of companies who are probably biggest customer.
3. Don’t believe in the MediaFlo technology. I see this as possible especially given their commitment to WiMax technology.
In this context, I thought this Press Release from Nortel about building a Wimax network in Brasil with MobileTV capabilities for a local Pay-TV company, TVA, especially interesting.

However, it should be stressed that TVA is relatively speaking quite a small PayTV operator. The largest operator is Net which is ultimately owned by the Mexican giant, Telmex, who also owns one of the largest cellular operators in Brasil.

I suspect ultimately Sprint will do something similar in the Wimax spectrum with the cable companies providing the content. However, I can’t see the Wimax offer being as technically efficient as MediaFlo, especially given MediaFlo was specifically engineered for broadcast. Also, I’d prefer a high powered broadcast UHF band service to a service in 2.5GHz of spectrum any day of the week. It will extremely interesting to see if Nokia will add WiMax MobileTv technology to its handsets, especially given their historical addiction to DVB-H technology.