Laurence Alexander: My business week

The chief executive of ROK Entertainment, welcomes, finally, the arrival of mobile TV
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The Independent Online

How much would you pay to watch a live episode of the 'Richard and Judy Show' on the two-inch mobile phone screen?Not too much, I'd wager. But how much might you pay to watch a five-minute clip of your favourite programme or team, while waiting for a bus? A couple of quid, perhaps.

For some time now – at least since the extraordinary 3G spectrum auctions of 2000 – we've been repeatedly told that mobile TV is coming. And so it is, and soon, there is absolutely no doubt about that. But the label "mobile TV" can be misleading, and requires explanation.

For most of us, TV means full-length broadcast TV. In the mobile arena, broadcast television – using DVB-H technology – will not be available nationwide in the UK until 2012 when the last analogue masts are finally switched off. For now it is the province solely of those of us who have signed up to a 3G service, and that accounts for fewer than 5m of the 60m handsets estimated to be in use in the UK.

The alternative is high-quality streamed television, on demand, allowing the viewer to choose what she wants to watch, when she wants to watch it. For the first time, a high-quality VOD television service is now available over GPRS networks, which effectively makes Mobile TV a mass market product for the first time.

Ultimately we view these two services as complementary. There will always be some live broadcasts that will attract viewers on the move, although realistically a mobile phone is third choice behind your widescreen television or PC for watching programming at length. But for that bus stop moment, a service that allows them to choose exactly how they fill those few minutes will be very attractive.

In the long term the combination of the two offers a powerful package for viewers but for now finally, with video-on-demand on existing networks becoming a reality, the industry can honour its ancient promise to bring TV to our mobile phones.