- 13 Nov 09, 10:06 GMT
Three years ago, I filed a series of reports from South Korea, intended to give a glimpse of our high-tech future - and it seemed clear that one phenomenon - mobile television - would be heading our way... presently.
But so far in the UK - and across Europe, as far as I can see - mobile television is the personal jet-pack of consumer technology: something that looks fun but has stubbornly refused to take off.
There have been numerous experiments, rows over different broadcast standards, and quite a few failed launches - remember that Virgin Mobile TV service, promoted by Pamela Anderson, which closed after attracting fewer than 10,000 subscribers?
It seems that a combination of technological problems and consumer indifference has made both operators and broadcasters pause for thought. The trouble is that the various broadcast systems that have been tried out have so far looked too expensive, while television over the 3g network has proved just a bit flaky.
Now, though, there's a new wave of interest, sparked by the proliferation of smartphones with bigger screens, notably the iPhone.
While few people are watching live television, more and more seem to be putting programmes on their phones to watch on the move, and it seems the BBC's iPlayer service for mobiles has also proved quite popular.
Some dedicated gadget fans are also using Slingbox's technology to deliver their home television service to their mobile phones. But this week, Sky launched a mobile TV service aimed specifically at iPhone users, and it set me wondering whether at last someone was going to crack the live TV conundrum.
Sky says it already has around 250,000 subscribers to two mobile sports TV services on a number of handsets - but it has big hopes for the iPhone and its early-adopter user base (due in part to the apps potential and, again, that bigger screen). Around two million people have downloaded a series of free Sky applications, but now the big test will be how many will sign up for the £6-per-month service giving access to all of Sky's live sports output.
But here's the catch - it's only available on wi-fi, so while it may be handy as a cheaper substitute at home for those unwilling to pay full whack for Sky Sports, it's unlikely to allow many people to catch Premiership action on the move.
It's apparently O2 which has decreed that this - like other TV streaming services - cannot be accessed on its 3g network. The operator says that if some people are watching television on their mobiles, others could see their service impaired. And this brings us back to the real problem: an industry struggling to deliver a compelling experience to mobile consumers with technology which isn't yet up to the job.
One live service delivered over 3g is, however, causing a lot of excitement. It's called TVCatchup, and it offers the main channels live to a computer or an iPhone.
I've tried it out over the last few days: catching up with a bit of Strictly Come Dancing as we walked to a firework display; watching the Six O'Clock News on the train home. It's amazing when it works, though prone to freezing when network coverage dips.
There is of course one catch to TVCatchup. The broadcasters appear dubious about its legal status, though I'm not entirely sure what the difference is between a phone streaming a live feed of BBC1 and one of those tiny portable televisions picking up the broadcast signal. In both cases, though, you do need a television licence to watch live TV (see this post at the BBC Internet Blog). (Note to TV Licensing: how about a licence app for phones? Free to those who've already got a licence?)
The appetite for live television on the move can only grow. The question now is who will be able to come up with something that delivers on three fronts - the right technology, a price consumers will pay, and a business model that will survive for more than a few months.
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