NEW DELHI: Telecom operators, chip makers, network providers and handset makers have strongly opposed any hurried decision on a proposed idea to beam TV content directly to mobile phones without a cellular data connection, as the technology is still immature.
The smartphone industry is worried that adoption of the proposal making it mandatory for devices to offer support to direct-to-mobile (D2M) broadcasting will increase the cost of devices by $30 (₹2,500) at least.
Experts say the tech, which will potentially allow phones to pick up TV signals ‘off the air,’ will see telcos losing out heavily on data revenue — increasingly the mainstay of business, with voice calls being effectively free.
Getting chipsets will also be a problem due to the lack of a global ecosystem, experts add.
ET was first to report August 5 that the government was exploring a proposal for D2M, as it felt there should be convergence for delivering content via broadcast and broadband, particularly with the launch of 5G services.
The comments from stakeholders — including Qualcomm, Samsung, Nokia, Ericsson as well as the Cellular Operators Association of India and India Cellular and Electronics Association lobby groups — were submitted to the Telecommunications Engineering Centre (TEC), a unit of the Department of Telecommunications, which is running a consultation process on the issue.
The government is yet to take a call on the matter, officials said.
Currently, television’s reach is limited to 210-220 million homes, but there are around 800 million smartphone users in the country, in addition to some 250 million featurephone users. The smartphone user base is expected to hit one billion by 2026, estimate market trackers.
According to reports, over 80% of internet traffic is video, which makes the mobile a perfect candidate for broadcast delivery along with TV.
Thus, the addressable market is huge, and the government wants to utilise the route for content delivery, particularly educational and other necessary content such as emergency alert systems, an official said.
TEC is evaluating the enshrining of ATSC 3.0 standards into national norms, which will allow the broadcast of TV channels and content to mobile phones, similar to terrestrial broadcasting on TV.
A proof-of-concept was undertaken by IIT-Kanpur to establish a roadmap for D2M. The institute partnered with wireless communications solutions firm Saankhya Labs for all the hardware requirements, including chipset, radio, etc. IIT-Kanpur has also released a white paper on the subject along with its recommendations.
According to the institute, once a D2M network is rolled out, a broadcaster can use it as a data pipe and deliver various applications, apart from traditional TV and radio. This includes educational content, emergency alerts, disaster management updates and video on demand, among others. It also enables the broadcaster to gather user statistics for targeted advertisements.
A converged D2M network will enable users to access unlimited video and data content at a nominal fixed monthly price, without having to rely on costly and often unreliable mobile broadband networks, IIT Kanpur’s white paper said.
The telcos, however, have pushed back. In their submission to TEC, telcos highlighted that ATSC 3.0 has not gained much adoption globally. Besides, 3GPP, which globally develops standards for mobile telecommunications, has included broadcast features in its release 17 for 5G broadcast.
“TEC has already created national standards for cellular networks based on 3GPP specifications,” said a joint submission by Qualcomm, Samsung, Nokia, Ericsson and ITU-APT Foundation of India. “The Indian 5G network deployments are compliant to this standard, in adherence to licence conditions. This standard can already support broadcast and multicast services delivery to mobile devices, without needing any additional capability.”
Besides, telcos are of the view that all video content in broadcasting is available on smartphones, so TV content on mobile is not a big consumer demand.
Smartphone makers said that since a mobile device is designed for the global market based on 3GPP standards, it will be impossible to find the space to introduce new services such as 5G, 6G or satellite, et al, if manufacturers need to support legacy technologies indefinitely.
“The design and manufacture of mobile phones to incorporate ATSC 3.0 will adversely impact mobile manufacturing efforts,” said the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) in its submission to TEC. “The inclusion of any technology which is not proven and globally acceptable goes against the market forces and will derail the pace of domestic manufacturing and the most important exports for the exchequer.”
ICEA chairman Pankaj Mohindroo told ET that handset makers have always taken a stand against technology adoption mandates, especially if it was immature, not proven, and increased the cost of ownership of mobile devices in India. “We believe any forced mandate at this stage will make the Indian mobile industry a costly experimental ground, which we can ill afford,” he said.
A mobile handset having D2M technology such as ATSC 3.0 will offer an inferior means of providing real-time alerts to mobile consumers, the smartphone makers said. No ATSC 3.0 capable phones are available as of date anywhere from any major handset original equipment manufacturer, they said.
Source: The Economic Times