AT&T’s purchase of Aloha Partners puts Verizon’s mobile TV launch squarely in its cross-hairs.
Verizon uses Qualcomm’s competitive MediaFlo technology, which already broadcasts shows like "60 Minutes" and "CSI: New York" in more than 32 markets.
Aloha’s HiWire unit has quietly acquired 700 mhz spectrum in 281 markets covering more than 196 million while attention has focused on two other players: Verizon and its V Cast Mobile TV service; and Modeo, which scrapped plans for its own digital TV service over the summer.
Aloha’s acquisition would allow AT&T to leapfrog directly from its relatively slow network to broadcast-quality TV on mobile handsets.
Like all new mobile technologies, mobile TV’s consumer uptake will be slow. Mobile TV requires a new chip to be implanted in handsets, essentially turning them into tiny TVs capable of showing near-broadcast quality programming.
So both Verizon and AT&T will need to both order new specially-designed handsets and sell consumers on mobile TV. They’ll also face the task of differentiating the services from existing "TV" on cellphones, which operate off of the mobile Internet.
MediaFlo and Aloha’s DVbH technology operate on broadcast TV’s so-called "one-to-many" principle: consumers receive one signal that scales to millions of people without a cost increase.
Existing mobile video is "one-to-one", meaning every customer gets their own customized video stream. That means millions of people using the carriers’ existing mobile video services might cost more than they earn for the operators — potentially even crashing their networks.
AT&T says it may still decide to use Aloha’s spectrum for voice or data services. But its hard to believe that a company that’s invested billions of dollars in terrestrial IPTV services won’t grab this tailor-made opportunity in mobile.