Satellite TV on the move

by Staff Reporter | January 14th, 2013

(Left in pic) Katie Xiaoyan Weng, Assistant General Manager, View Mobile, explaining the product at CABSAT 2012

From convincing TV broadcasters to getting the automobile industry on-board, Katie Weng and Riad Abdel Hadi at View Mobile speak to SatellitePro ME about the spectrum of activity that has taken them from the factories in the Zhejiang province of China to the studios of MBC and beyond.

While terrestrial TV has been deployed on the move, it is limited in range to a city or country. We are using L-band. Through our equipment that is co-located in Samacom, the Ku and C-band signals are down-converted to L-band and uplinked to Africstar that has strong coverage over the Middle East and North Africa

The number 12 will not stop you in your tracks, especially if it refers to the number of channels you can watch on your television. What will hold your attention, however, is the fact that these channels can be watched live when you are on the move across the GCC – on road, by air or by sea.

Satellite TV conjures images of large, unwieldy antennas and complicated setup procedures. The antenna that Assistant General Manager, Katie Xiaoyan Weng and Media Consultant, Riad Abdel Hadi demonstrated when the Satellite Pro ME team visited their Dubai office, was no more than the size of an average CD. They claim that it is the first of its kind in the world. Launched at Cabsat earlier in 2012, by View Mobile International Broadcasting Group, the Satellite Mobile TV Pad is according to Katie, “the first mobile TV set in the world which has live transmission of channels. So far, the device can receive 12 Arabic-language channels, such as the news channels Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera or CNBC Arabia, among others.”

While the idea of watching your favourite football team in action on the beach is a compelling enough visual, Katie explained that the product could be connected to another screen up to 32”, movies could be watched on USB flash drives and the device could be connected to the car speakers. Also with a rechargeable battery that could be used for five hours and a built-in 2GB memory, the think tank in China was clearly covering all its bases.

View Mobile, headquartered in Dubai Media City, is a subsidiary of a Chinese digital equipment manufacturer from the Zhejiang province. The company targets the sale of 300,000 units of the Satellite Mobile TV Pad in the Middle East.

The service can be received via a CD-sized antenna which, the manufacturer claims, is not required to point precisely at the satellite, unlike other satellite TV services which can be received only via a stationary sizeable satellite dish with precise and fixed pointing capabilities.

“This unique feature allows the service to be deployed in mobile environments, either in a moving car, ship or airplane,” explains Katie.

 

(Left in pic) Riad Abdel Hadi, Media Consultant, View
Mobile at CABSAT 2012

Approaching broadcasters

The coming together of Dubai-resident and broadcast veteran, Riad Abdel Hadi, and the Chinese company was perhaps a story for another day, but his presence completes an important cycle in marketing the product in the region.

It was a question of education. The channels know about content streaming on mobile phones and the internet – satellite TV on the move was a new concept for the broadcasters. We overcame the copyright issue by signing on channels that own their content

Having come to Dubai in 1974, he was one of the few people that established Dubai TV.

“Then onwards, I branched to post production, and I did a lot of work for Emirates Airlines, Dubai Police and others. Four years ago, I shifted to China and during my stay there, I came across the Chinese manufacturer.”

Content is key to the success of the product and Hadi played a key role in getting the 12 Arabic channels on board.

“Negotiation with channel owners was tough initially. They did not know what we were talking about. And their biggest concern was copyright. Actually, copyright should not be a problem because we are covering the same audience and moreover given the era of connected TV, channels should be happy we are ensuring the audience is watching them even on the move.

“It was a question of education. The channels know about content streaming on mobile phones and the internet – satellite TV on the move was a new concept for them. We overcame the copyright issue by signing on channels that own their content. Today the channels are excited about the concept and are approaching us to be on board.”

The choice of channels

The choice of content is always tricky, admits Hadi.

“You cannot please everyone. We are targeting an Arab speaking family audience. So we have a bouquet that comprises of the most-watched news channels, a cartoon channel for children, sports channels and general entertainment channels.”

The next step on the anvil is appointing distributors for the region. And that is proving to be surprisingly knotty when you consider that the product is a global first. Here again, Hadi believes education is key.

“People who understand satellite technology and appreciate the cost of leasing transponder space and the cost of research and manufacture, understand our one-time retail price of Dhs 1500. Moreover, buyers can then enjoy our channels at no extra or monthly charge.”

Understanding L-band

“One common misconception,” says Katie, “is the notion, among viewers, that satellite TV allows them to watch hundreds of channels.

They want to know as to why only 12 channels can be watched through our system. They do not realise that for hundreds of channels, you would need an unwieldy antenna that weighs 10-30 kgs and that would hardly be portable or affordable. We have developed a portable antenna that weighs a mere 0.5 kilos. Imagine watching live sports telecast on the beach.”

Katie will also tell you that the product is a global first on many fronts.

“While terrestrial TV has been deployed on the move, it is limited in range to a city or country. Secondly, we are using L-band. It took us more than seven years to develop this solution. L-band is akin to a GPS frequency and supports data and voice transmission.

“Our challenge was to transmit good quality video within the constraints of the bandwidth. Through our equipment that is co-located in Samacom, the Ku and C-band signals are down-converted to L-band and uplinked to Africstar that has strong coverage over the Middle East and North Africa.”

Even as the lucrative GCC markets are being targeted where the coverage is especially strong, the next generation of products are being developed and the marketing team is looking towards expanding the concept to markets in India and Europe.

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