Mobile TV licences by Q1 2009

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 12 Aug 2008

The Department of Communications (DOC) wants mobile television, using the digital video broadcasting - handheld (DVB-H) format, licensed for SA by the first quarter of next year.

DOC director-general Lyndall Shope-Mafole says government has indicated to the Local Organising Committee of the Soccer World Cup that DVB-H mobile television will be a reality in SA by 2010.

Shope-Mafole says the broadcasting digital migration policy adopted by Cabinet last week provides for mobile television.

Speaking to the media on the new policy, the DOC DG added there had "been some delay" on finalising policy because of the issue of cross-media ownership.

The Electronic Communications Act imposes strictures on companies and individuals controlling newspapers from owning commercial broadcasting services under certain conditions.

Shope-Mafole intimated the law might be reviewed as it did not provide for mobile television.

"ICASA [the Independent Communications Authority of SA] must license [mobile TV providers] with some flexibility, but taking into account cross-media ownership." She added that Cabinet was keen to open up the pay TV market and wanted a "diversity of operators".

MultiChoice currently dominates the satellite pay TV market and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of newspaper giant Naspers. MultiChoice is keen on entering the mobile TV market and has run a trial of DVB-H broadcasting with mobile operator Vodacom.

It also on-sells some of its satellite bouquet to Vodacom for broadcast over 3G. MultiChoice yesterday said it was "excited and encouraged" by government's new push for mobile TV. But Naspers' dominance in the newspaper market and satellite environment may affect its mobile TV prospects.

Vodacom, for its part, says it will adopt a "wait and see" approach until more information regarding DVB-H licences become available.

The mobile provider is already streaming two-dozen TV channels to 31 000 Mobile TV and Mobile TV Playa subscribers.

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