Live news coming to a mobile near you

By Owen Hembry

Vodafone is broadcasting live TV news on to its cellphones in the latest attempt to wrestle the initiative from competitor Telecom.

British-owned Vodafone, which launched its third-generation cellphone network and TV service last August, began live streaming Prime TV's 5.30 pm daily news programme yesterday.

Tim Nichols, head of Vodafone Live, said the new programme was a major step forward in the company's Mobile TV service since it was launched.

"For the first time, we can now offer a whole show to watch on a mobile at the same time it screens on the TV network," Nichols said.

Previously, Vodafone users could watch news from Sky News, but only breaking news was live.

The company said that monitoring of customer trends had shown that the Sky News made-for-mobile channel was the most popular, with viewing times spiking around lunchtime, early evening and late at night.

Nichols said Vodafone was working with other broadcasters to further develop its TV offering.

"It just shows that there are broadcasters out there who are willing and able to see bigger than their own viewer figures."

IDC senior telecommunications analyst Chris Loh said the new service was "probably the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be delivered to consumers.

"We'll see a lot more coming so it's really a good thing that it's been offered."

Internationally, the focus of mobile operators was shifting from merely voice and data to content and entertainment.

As of February, Vodafone had 53 per cent of the local mobile phone market but, after slipping for five straight quarters, the momentum was with rival Telecom with 47 per cent of the market.

Loh said the traditional battleground for customers had been voice and data products but where mobile voice services were becoming more of a commodity, phone companies were compelled to differentiate their other offerings.

It was still early days in terms of determining the importance and value of entertainment content to consumers.

"There's a question mark over [whether] they can pay a certain amount of money for this live streaming service which they can get on the run or are they prepared to wait half an hour until they get home and watch it on TV. So that's a really big question."

Despite the potential for more mobile services, consumers remained price sensitive with a limited amount to spend each month on telecommunication products.

"The real battle with all this new content and entertainment-centric services is to control more of the average revenue per user that is available," Loh said.

To access the live bulletin, users need a 3G handset and to be in a 3G coverage area.


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