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Report: Lucrative future for mobile TV

Juniper Research expects the global mobile-TV market to grow tenfold by 2012, despite Virgin Mobile's unsuccessful attempt.

Global mobile-TV revenues will exceed $6.6 billion per year by 2012, as the potential market for the service grows tenfold.

According to Juniper Research, mobile-broadcast TV services will be available to 120 million mobile users in 40 countries by the next decade.

However, there are a few technological hurdles to overcome in the meantime--such as handset and spectrum availability, and the level of investment.

"It will take a good five years after services are rolled out for networks to start recouping their investment, but the market is there," report author Windsor Holden said.

Juniper's stance appears almost unrealistically optimistic, considering the slow start that mobile-broadcast TV has had in the United Kingdom. The only real commitment so far has come from Virgin Mobile, which launched a mobile-television service back in 2006. However, in July of this year, Virgin announced it would be pulling the plug on the service, after only reportedly signing up around 10,000 subscribers.

Holden acknowledges that Virgin's service had its drawbacks but said mobile TV is already popular in other countries.

"Virgin made a lot of mistakes," Holden said. "The service only had four channels. It only launched on one handset. The quality of the service wasn't great. If you compare this with 3 Italia, which launched a mobile-broadcast TV service 16 months ago with more handsets, a differential pricing policy and bundling with other services, it's managed to sign up half a million subscribers in less than 12 months."

Holden predicted that the traditional early adopters, in countries such as Japan and South Korea, would probably be the most lucrative markets for the service, though he admitted that even by the next decade, revenues will be a drop in the ocean compared to global TV spending as a whole.

"Revenues will be comparable to (that of) an organization like BSkyB on its own," Holden said.

Julian Goldsmith of Silicon.com reported from London.