Picture quality might be an issue for HKTV

Experts also question whether people will buy special receivers just to watch its programmes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 4:51am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 4:51am

Telecommunication veterans have questioned whether Ricky Wong Wai-kay's internet television service will be able to match the picture quality of conventional free-to-air broadcasts.

Two months after the government rejected the bid by Wong's Hong Kong Television Network for a free-to-air TV licence, the station announced plans to launch internet and mobile services next July.

According to HKTV's announcement, three to five channels will be broadcast live and viewers will be able to watch them on the internet or their mobile devices.

The internet system works on any device that can browse the web, while the mobile system requires no internet connection but needs a special receiver to be plugged into television sets or mobile devices.

HKTV has yet to announce the video quality of mobile broadcasts. But China Mobile Hong Kong, which has been acquired by HKTV, has adopted a standard called China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB).

It broadcasts programmes at a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels for its existing station UTV, equivalent to the video quality option of 240p on YouTube, said Francis Fong Po-kiu, president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation.

It is far from the best quality, as YouTube allows high-definition videos of up to 1920 x 1080 pixels, the 1080p option. TVB and ATV also provide high-definition channels.

"Can CMMB support higher video quality? Or would HKTV shift to another standard? Those are the big questions," Fong said.

It remains to be seen whether local households will be willing to buy receivers just to watch HKTV. For those who choose to tune in via the internet, the questions would concern service stability and price, IT-sector lawmaker Charles Mok said.

An HKTV spokeswoman said the station had not decided whether to adopt CMMB and was still working on the technical aspects of broadcasting.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung said HKTV's mobile-TV plans had little to do with boosting its chances to get a free-to-air licence later.

"I think there are two separate issues here," he said. "What I am most interested in is to have more choices for the people of Hong Kong and quality programmes for people to choose from. If any of this new technology will bring a very vibrant scene to Hong Kong, personally I welcome that notion and am very excited."

Professor Anthony Fung Ying-him, director of Chinese University's school of journalism and communication, said existing technologies for mobile TV allowed broadcasting in quality high enough for television sets.

"The bigger concern is whether it will be profitable to run mobile TV in a market as small as Hong Kong," he said, adding that advertisers spent much more on conventional television than on new media.