MobaHo!: Satellite Broadcast to Mobile
In the mobile space, Asia is a huge, innovate-or-die marketplace, and MobaHo! — a joint venture of 88 Japanese and Korean companies — is gambling Big Money that Asians will want satellite TV and radio broadcasts beamed from the sky direct to their handheld receivers, cell phones and car-mounted tuners — and maybe even iPods in the future. Today, we go eye-to-eye with Mobile Broadcasting Corp. for a first-on-the-Web videocast featuring facts, analysis and great eye-candy of MobaHo’s latest digi satellite terminals.
Entertainment-on-demand has become one of the defining platforms for Asian mobile content. Proving to the unwired masses that you really can take it all with you (and need the devices to do it) has driven cellcos to pump up tiny cell phones, PDAs, and wireless gadgets with games, music, data, e-money and cross-platform sync capabilities, among many others. i-mode is merely the best known of the mobile data services and proves the point that, until now, you had to own a network to come to the table (that would be the DoCoMos, the KDDIs and the Vodafones of the region).
But wait a minute.
What if, instead of building a (pricey) cellular network, you simply boosted a whacking big electronic bird into the sky that could shower entertainment bits down onto a footprint that covered, oh, say, Tokyo and Seoul—which happen to be two of the richest urban areas on Earth, not to mention Asia. That is precisely what Mobile Broadcasting Corp. (MobaHo!) has done.
MobaHo! began broadcasting 40 channels of video, audio and data exclusively for Japan during last October. They anticipate 1.5 million users will join in the next three years for their fee-based service (but those numbers are by no means guaranteed).
In terms of business model, mobile satellite broadcasting goes head-to-head with free terrestrial TV available over cell phones, like Vodafone’s V601N, and low-priced palm-sized TV tuners. Consumers may shy away from purchasing yet more technology or simply wait for prices of MobaHo! tuners from manufacturers like Sharp and Toshiba to drop.
Last October, Wireless Watch was at MobaHo!’s kick-off at the WPC Expo at the Tokyo Big Site convention center. We crunched numbers with Hiroyuki Ida, manager of MobaHo!’s marketing group, and discussed the company’s strategies for success.
Note that for now, they are providing video and audio while a data channel (with uplink) should come along later in 2005. It may not yet be time for the DoCoMos to be afraid, but they’d better start worrying.
And in a late update as we were going to press today, we spotted a press release from MobaHo!, who announced that MobaHo!’s satellite broadcast customers should be able to tune in to their favorite TV and radio shows on 30 train lines in Tokyo and Osaka by this spring.
It appears that some of the busier commuter lines, like JR’s central-Tokyo Yamanote loop and Chuo lines—have been installing gap filler base stations to boost reception onboard trains; most of the labor in Tokyo is already completed while work in Osaka should be finished by March.
— The Editors
Web Update on Feb. 1, 2005
An interesting related article about Mobaho just posted on Japan Media Review.