T-Mobile, Orange Reboot Their Mobile TV Services In UK

Mobile TV has for years been one of the great white hopes for mobile operators looking for new lines of revenue from their data networks — a sentiment that they have held on to despite some high-profile services having failed to meet expectations.

Now Everything Everywhere — the JV of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK — is looking to take another stab at the medium.

It has announced plans to launch a new live mobile TV platform that its hopes will increase the number of its customers using mobile TV six-fold over the next three years.

The as-yet unbranded service will be produced in conjunction with Red Bee Media, the digital entertainment technology company that was spun off from the BBC. Red Bee will be powering the service using its RedPlayer digital TV delivery platform. Before today, the operators were using in-house solutions for their video services.

This is only the announcement of the changeover: no date yet on when services using the platform will come online.

One of the big gating factors in mobile TV services up to now has been the quality of the broadcasts: they have been too dependent on shoddy network connections, have only worked on a limited range of devices, and don’t necessarily give consumers the choice of content they want to justify the price for the service.

Everything Everywhere looks like it is trying to address that issue head on: it says that the new platform will be able to deliver mobile TV services to a much bigger range of devices than ever before, including tablets, and content will be automatically optimized for the device that is being used. The service will automatically seek out the best network connection for the service, whether it is WiFi or 3G.

Will a redoubled effort on improving quality be enough to drive customer usage? It’s not clear yet — but since those early days of mobile TV a lot has changed, including the rise of apps and the mobile web and how they get used by consumers on their smartphones and tablets. Today, a user can get a range of apps for iOS, Android and other devices — or go right online — to not only view live television but also get on-demand video content.

In terms of actual content, the focus of Everything Everywhere’s service looks like it will be live broadcasts: covering more than 40 channels, including premium channels like Sky Sports and National Geographic. The company says it is also looking at how to implement new TV technologies, such as 3D content.

This is not Everything Everywhere’s first foray into mobile TV: Orange was the first operator in the UK to offer these services, in a partnership with the US-based MobiTV, back in 2005. In those days before the smartphone boom and limited 3G access, though, the service failed to attract a critical mass of users. T-Mobile has been offering mobile TV since 2007.

Everything Everywhere declined to give mocoNews any numbers on how those current services are faring: no details on subscribers nor on how much they actually get used.

The announcement from Everything Everywhere comes on the heels of several other news developments in the realm of mobile TV and mobile entertainment offerings from operators:

Last week, MobiTV last week filed documents with the SEC to announce its intent for an IPO, from which it hopes to raise some $75 million.

Virgin Media inked a £100 million ($160 million) with the Mobile Broadband Network Consortium (Everything Everywhere and Three’s network joint venture) to beef up mobile data backhaul, aimed specifically at improving the delivery of data-intensive services like mobile video.

And just yesterday Orange announced that it would be launching a new mobile music service in partnership with Deezer.

But it also comes after some high-profile closures, such as Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM) deciding to ditch its FLO-TV mobile TV service after finally admitting low subscriber takeup.