Lei Ho, Amego: CMMB Vision to test first satellite-based mobile multimedia service in Hong Kong using palm-sized device

Compact Wi-fi router Amego connects to a small antennae to receive signals from AsiaStar L-band spectrum satellite

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 4:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 4:45pm

Hong Kong-listed CMMB Vision Holdings plans to launch its trial of China’s first satellite-based mobile multimedia service in the city this second quarter, with an eye to forming new commercial alliances.

In a regulatory filing on Wednesday, CMMB Vision chairman and chief executive Charles Wong Chau-chi said the company has developed a palm-sized device called Amego for the service.

Amego, which stands for “anywhere mobile entertainment to go”, is a compact Wi-fi router that connects to a small antennae, such as one built in a car, to receive signals from the AsiaStar L-band spectrum satellite, in which CMMB Vision holds exclusive user rights.

Such signals can be retransmitted via the Amego box to a nearby smartphone, tablet or laptop computer within a distance of 100 square metres.

That operation is made possible with the mainland-developed multicast technology known as Converged Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting, which CMMB Vision has long been promoting.

Wong said the trial service in Hong Kong will include from six to 12 live, free-to-air broadcast television channels, “without relying on existing mobile cellular networks, without data limits and without data charges to users”.

When CMMB Vision’s advanced new L-band satellite named Silkwave-1 gets activated in the next few years, Wong said the service would be able to support “more than 100 video and audio channels, abundant internet content downloads, location-based navigation services, as well as integrated, interactive 4G cellular services”.

The company said in February that its aim was to offer enhanced DARS (digital-audio radio service), following the business model of broadcaster Sirius XM in the United States.

New York-based Sirius XM is currently the world’s most renowned DARS provider, with 29.6 million subscribers across the US and Canada. It is also the world’s largest broadcaster by revenue, with record sales of US$4.6 billion last year.

“Learning from Sirius XM’s experience in the US, satellite mobile broadcasting is the most effective way of distributing entertainment services to vehicles,” Wong said on Wednesday.

“China is the world’s largest car market with more than 250 million vehicles, yet there is a severe lack of in-car entertainment and media services,” he said, noting the limited coverage and expensive data rates under existing 4G network services.

Citing market forecasts, CMMB Vision said in-car media and entertainment spending on the mainland will reach US$37 billion by 2019.

In February, CMMB Vision formed a joint venture with Global Broadcasting Media, a company owned by state broadcaster China Radio International, to offer bundled radio, video and internet data services, as well as precision navigation, to hundreds of millions of potential subscribers on the mainland - the world’s biggest car market by sales.

CMMB Vision’s AsiaStar satellite covers China, India and the countries in Southeast Asia, with uplink stations in Beijing and Melbourne in Australia.

The company’s so-called soft launch in Hong Kong will be supported out of its facilities in Cyberport, which will include an Asian demo centre.

“It will set up multiple trial zones across Hong Kong ... and will invite local and regional partners,” Wong said.

“Product sales are expected to be conducted through partnerships with local car dealerships, telecommunications operators and e-commerce providers.”

The company last month reported a wider net loss of US$21.73 million for last year, compared with US$2.21 million in 2014, largely due to higher development and promotion expenses. Total revenue grew 49 per cent to US$8.67 million, up from US$5.81 million in 2014.