Mobile TV presents fixed-line service operators with a great opportunity to seize revenue back from cellular operators. This view from BT may be expected from an operator that withdrew from the cellular market by selling its mobile operator, Cellnet, in 2001, but also reflects a rather strange fact about mobile TV: Most of it is consumed at home. Indeed, 85 to 90 percent of mobile data traffic in general is generated within the home of the subscriber, according to Simon Orme, strategy director for content services at BT’s wholesale division. Most mobile data is therefore serving the needs of portability, like a cordless house phone, rather than true mobility. As Orme pointed out at the IP&TV World Forum, mobile data is growing fast, but it’s still six years behind fixed-line data with no signs of catching up — “more of a ripple than a tsunami,” as he put it.
Nonetheless, mobile data within the home will increase rapidly over the next few years, and most of that will be mobile video. But if it stays within the home, it will not need a true wide-scale mobile network to carry it. It can be served either by WiFi or by femtocells hooked into the wider cellular network but partitioned from it. Instead of flowing out over the mobile infrastructure, it would be backhauled directly into the fixed-line network serving the home, at least if BT has its way, without a cellular network of its own.
Certainly, mobile data backhaul or offload will become big business, and BT’s argument is that the big fixed-line networks have greater economies of scale than the core networks of mobile operators, precisely because they are six years ahead in terms of growth, and so have greater capacity. This enables them to offer lower megabit-per-second costs.
It could be then that true fixed/mobile convergence does arrive within the next few years, but with the established wireline infrastructures gobbling up the traffic.