If content has trickled from early mobile phone data services, a service slated to launch next month in the United Kingdom aims to turn on the wireless broadband faucet.
Hutchison Whampoa, the Hong Kong conglomerate that operates several third-generation (3G) mobile phone networks in Europe and Asia, will begin offering a new service on Dec. 1, initially in the United Kingdom, that will allow customers, among other things, to use specially equipped mobile phones and a device designed to stream TV programs from a standard cable connection or satellite receiver in their home.
The mobile TV service is part of the new broadband Internet X-Series service that Hutchison launched globally Thursday.
Among the key Internet features of the X-Series are flat-rate pricing and voice-over-IP telephony.
Hutchison has teamed up with Skype to provide the VoIP service.
For the streamed mobile TV service, customers require both hardware and software from Sling Media. With SlingPlayer Mobile software installed in their phones, they can watch TV programs delivered through the Slingbox, which links up to their terrestrial TV, cable connection or satellite receiver.
Hutchison 3G UK, which will be the first subsidiary of the Hutchison group to offer the service, will offer two phones with the SlingPlayer Mobile software pre-installed: Nokia’s N73 and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications’ W950i.
The streamed mobile TV service will be available in three more Hutchison markets in early 2007.
In addition to the streamed service, X-Series offers mobile access to digital media stored on PCs, such as music, videos and photos. Hutchison has partnered with Orb Networks to develop an application that allows users to stream content from their PCs to their mobile phones.
The new X-Series service offers nearly everything about the Internet that worries rival mobile operators, John Delaney, principal analyst at Ovum, said in a report. Flat-rate data tariffs remove the link between service usage and end-user revenue, while VoIP undermines mobile voice revenues. Additionally, instant messaging offers text messaging "at a fraction of the price" of short-message service, he added.
One big question will be price, according to Delaney. No pricing information was given.
Ultimately, pricing of the X-Series will determine whether the service will become a mass-market offering or confined to the category of "expensive toys for rich boys," he said.
-John Blau, IDG News Service (Dusseldorf Bureau)