Three mobile TV licences up for bidding next year
Television viewers in Hong Kong will be able to watch their favourite dramas while they are on the go in two to three years' time.
A broadcasting revolution in the city came a step closer yesterday with the announcement of an auction of new mobile television licences in the second half of next year.
Three 15-year licences will be put up for bidding and, within 18 months, all Hongkongers will need to watch mobile TV is a mobile phone or MP4 player equipped with a receiver for the TV signal.
The licence holders will be able to provide up to 26 channels in total, covering at least half of the city's population. They will also be required to use at least half their transmission capacity for mobile TV content, while the remainder can be used to provide new services such as digital audio broadcasting.
Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Duncan Pescod said yesterday a mobile TV service would mark the convergence of technological advancement and the media.
'The market worldwide has called for a timely response from governments and regulators to facilitate the launch and growth of the service and we aim to enhance Hong Kong as a regional broadcasting hub,' he said.
The government will not impose ownership or cross-holding restrictions on the bidders while the content of mobile TV will be exempted from regulations of the Broadcasting Ordinance, which governs such matters as advertising content.
The service will use two different technologies - the European-developed DVB-H standard on UHF (ultra high frequency) band providing 20 channels, and the Korea-based T-DMB standard on Band III, of which two licensees would share its six channels.
T-DMB is understood to be more costly as it needs more transmission sites for full local coverage.
Several telecoms operators have offered mobile TV service on their 3G networks by streaming technology but the broadcasting quality can fade out when too many people try to watch the programme at the same time.
Mr Pescod said they had witnessed a positive response throughout two rounds of consultation since last year, both of which took place before the financial meltdown. 'There are no indications that [interest] will be unduly affected by the time we start the auction,' he said.
The government said it would leave it to the licensees to decide how much viewers should pay for the new service. Industry sources said it was possible for the service to be rolled out for free, following the advertising-driven business model of terrestrial television.
The city's free-to-air broadcasters TVB and ATV, together with the two pay-TV operators Cable TV and Now TV, said that they would study the framework.