Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dean Bubley: Place-shifting to mobile - IP and arbitrage, again

Dean Bubley writes at the Disruptive Wireless blog about "the growing momentum behind "placeshifting" - ie having access to your home content & applications when you're "somewhere else", either on an Internet connection in a cafe/laptop etc, or potentially on your mobile phone." He notes products like SlingBox that allow consumers to access their TV programming over the Internet and watch it somewhere else. He states:

Of course, the interesting thing here is whether the "somewhere else" in on a mobile device, arbitraging the inevitable trend of mobile-data towards flatrate pipes/large MB bundles, vs. the alleged extra amount people will pay an operator for a dedicated mobile TV "service". Obviously, the mobile TV service should be optimised for device size, user interface etc, but whether it'll stack up competitively against the "best efforts" version is yet to be proved.
He then cites some similar "place-shifting" activities that the network operators don't mind and writes:
Sending an MMS enables a friend to send you a "postcard" of wherever they might be. This arbitrages against the airfare needed to go & see it for yourself. This is an operator service, though. Sending a picture via email is less of a bundled service, more like a pipe-based one again. Push email is obviously in the same category as well, although this has both operator-controlled (ie BlackBerry) and "pipe"-based user-controlled versions.
Bubley thinks "the operators have nothing to complain about TV-placeshifting from a moral point of view. You don't hear about airlines barring carrier execs from flights (or downgrading them from business class to "best efforts" standby), as they contribute to turning them into dumb aluminium pipes & arbitraging them to the wall with MMS, do you?" He concludes with:
.... all of which brings me to the most fascinating version of place-shifting: Vodafone Germany's trial . Nice to see big Red leading the charge on arbitrage for a change, rather than complaining about it & trying to block it. It will be very interesting to see if T-Mobile has a go as well, or whether "placeshifted TV" is added to the list of things that will get your 3G account summarily cancelled.....