Mobile TV broadcast project hits licensing snag

13 Mar 2014

Hong Kong communications regulator OFCA has blocked a proposal by Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) to change mobile TV broadcasting transmission platform from the China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB) standard to Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB) standard as part of its relaunch of mobile TV combined with OTT content services scheduled for July this year.

CMMB is the standard adopted since the 2012 launch of the mobile TV broadcast service by its original owner China Mobile Hong Kong (under the ‘UTV’ brand), subsequently purchased by HKTV in January 2014, whereas DTMB is the standard adopted by Hong Kong’s free-to-air TV licensees for the provision of digital terrestrial television (DTT) services.

HKTV’s subsidiary Hong Kong Mobile Television (HKMTV) holds a Unified Carrier Licence (UCL) issued under the Telecommunications Ordinance (TO) authorising it to use specific frequencies to provide mobile broadcast-type TV services ‘with the use of digital broadcasting technologies for reception at moving locations’ but is explicitly not authorised to provide ‘any fixed services’ with those frequencies.

OFCA stated that HKMTV’s proposed switch from CMMB to DTMB would render its TV service subject to licensing under the Broadcasting Ordinance as a domestic free television programme service and/or domestic pay-TV programme service, unless HKMTV can ensure that it is not available for reception by an audience of more than 5,000 specified premises.

The matter is now being handled via the solicitors of OFCA and HKMTV.