Mobile phone operator Verizon Wireless has flipped the switch on what it surely hopes will be a major new revenue channel as it rolls out high-speed wireless technologies: V Cast Mobile TV, the first commercial mobile television service in the United States. Developed by Qualcom’s MediaFlo gorup, the service is available only in a limited number of markets in 20 states and only works with the $199 Samsung SCH-U620 handset, but it’s a very good bet Verizon will extend availability and add support for additional devices going forward (think LG). In the meantime, V Cast Mobile TV offers access to up to eight channels of television for an additional $15 per month, or $13 per month for reduced services and fewer channels.
What can you get via V Cast Mobile TV? Verizon’s current lineup includes CBS, NBC (and NBC News), ESPN, Fox, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central, along with a live feed from MTV. Some programs are shown at the same time as regular television, while others will be rescheduled to match the heaviest mobile phone viewing times. According to Verizon, picture quality for V Cast Mobile TV is on a level with broadcast television, and about twice as clear as Verizon’s existing V Cast video download service. Programming includes full-length programming, 24 hours a day, making it distinct from other mobile video services which tend to charge a hefty fee to download pre-canned clips and excerpts.
Currently, mobile video services in the U.S. boast only about 7 million customers; however, improved image quality and access to full-length programming could product a long-term upswing in subscriptions.
Subscribers who sign up for Verizon’s Mobile Internet service ($5/month) and V-Cast video service (for $15/month) can add Mobile TV to the mix for $25 a month, $10 less than if they were to buy all the services separately. Verizon also offers a $13 month Mobile TV Limited Package which includes only Fox, NBC, NBC News, and CBS. V Cast Mobile TV is currently available in Albuquerque, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New Orleans, Norfolk-Richmond, Omaha-Lincoln, Palm Springs, Portland (Oregon), Salt Lake City, Sante Fe, Seattle, Spokane, St. Louis, Tuscon, and Wichita.
Expect mobile television offerings to become more common this year: Verizon (the nation’s #2 carrier) will surely expand coverage, and Cingular Wireless, now part of AT&T and the nation’s largest carrier in terms of subscribers, plans to launch its own MediaFlo-based video service to customers later in 2007.