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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A mobile TV in your pocket

When you are determined to make an early morning appointment these days, you reach for your mobile phone and activate its alarm feature. As sure as heaven and earth, the device will wake you up at the desired time; some will do this even when they remain switched off.

And from the time you wake up till the time you return to your home, this device remains your guide, telling you how late you are running via its clock functions, telling you where you are in unfamiliar environments via its cell broadcast features and serving as a tool to ask for directions to get to where you are going.

So valuable has the mobile phone become that most modern men and women would feel both lost and naked should they be separated from their mobiles. Indeed many office workers hard pressed for time to resume work on time in the morning would think nothing of turning right back home from whichever point they have reached should they discover that they have left their phones behind in their rush. It is not for nothing. For some of them, the success of what they are to do in the office is dependent on their mobile phones.

The phone holds all their contacts of business associates’, colleagues’, clients’, prospects’, everything is on the phone. Nothing, not even one’s spouse’s number is committed to memory any longer. Everything is on the phone, and retrievable with a few clicks, and with some phones, a single click called short-dial code.

It is your calculator when you need to do quick sums of sales figures being reeled out at a presentation, your music box for the soft tunes you need to work at full throttle, your game console for those boring moments when the boss is droning about service culture and multitasking. And while talking about multitasking, what other device teaches us this better than a mobile phone? How many times have you walked into a lamp post or missed a step on the staircase while doing an SMS?

For people with Blackberry, or iPhone, their handheld is a convergence of their laptop, internet and phone. The phone gives them quick access to their emails. It alerts them to new ones coming in instantaneously. Besides Blackberry and iPhone, most top end phones available now have the processing power and storage available in what used to be powerful desktop computers some years back.

The mobile phone, in essence, is a convergence of many utility devices that modern men and women have come to depend on to perform better at their work, relate better with themselves, keep abreast of developments around them and be better entertained.

So, when you toss a mobile phone in your breast pocket, just how many devices are you stuffing in there? They can be as many as 15 different devices or more, depending on the power of the mobile phone you have. We can run through the checklist: a communication device first and foremost, a diary, a calculator, a game media, a digital camera sometimes complete with flash, a video camera (some recording for as long as an hour), an organiser, a clock, an alarm device, a document viewer, a GPS device, a palm top for browsing the Internet, reading and sending emails, audio recorder, messaging device, a projector (yes, sir) and music player, among others.

Now add the following: a surveillance device and a TV set. Yes, these can be added even here in Nigeria. One of the four GSM operators, MTN Nigeria late last year activated its 3.5G network which enabled it to launch a service called MTN Video Camera service in August this year. With this service a subscriber can watch what is going on in a designated area any time he wishes by simply dialing the camera.

Mothers can mount a camera in a room where they have their children and dial into the camera anytime they wish to watch their children at home even while they are at work. Husbands can watch the goings on at home even while away in the office by simply dialing into their home-mounted cameras from their phones and they can see everything. You can even pan the camera to focus on any area of the room you wish by punching buttons on your phone.

Subscribers wishing to know how traffic is on routes where MTN has mounted traffic monitoring video cameras can dial into the operator’s traffic monitoring service to see how the routes are and plan their journeys to avoid traffic bottlenecks and get to the office earlier. So, no doubt about it, your phone can also now become Agent 007 device in your hands!

The same operator also this year launched Mobile TV services called DStv Mobile from MTN which enables subscribers to watch 11 satellite TV channels on their mobile phones on the move. The service was first launched in Lagos, but has since been taken to Abuja and lately Port Harcourt.

Mobile TV currently exists around the world via the 3G enabled TV streaming services and via composite technology services that can ride on the 2G/GSM platform. The one that offers the best broadcast quality rides on the “DB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting- Handheld) technology. MTN struck partnership with DMTV a sister company of MultiChoice to deliver this technology across its operations in Africa and the Middle East.

While it may sound as Utopian, the truth is that this service is actually live and Nigerians who were at its launch in Lagos earlier in the year, and in Port Harcourt recently were able to ascertain that the service is real. Not only that, the clarity and general picture quality of the programming on the mobile devices are the same as on a normal television.

The bouquet of programme channels immediately available on the service include NTA 2 for local news, CNN for international news, Super Sports Update, SupersSports 3 and 9, Channel O for music, Magic World and Africa Magic for entertainment, Cartoon Network for kids and TBN for Christian religious programmes. The service is also showing the ongoing Big Brother Africa on an eleventh channel. One of the special handsets goes for N45,000 while subscribers pay a monthly subscription fee of N1500.

In essence, if you can pay the price, your mobile phone can also be a TV set. But the innovations in the mobile phone industry are unending. As this is being written, manufacturers are thinking of or are already infusing the mobile phone with even more power, features and functionality.

A recent research by SITA, the IT provider to the air transport industry, shows that the world’s 3.2 billion mobile phones could be transformed into indispensable air travel tools within five years.

The report established that mobile phones have the potential to hold boarding passes, baggage tracking information and payment data, making travel truly paperless and location independent. There is also the future possibility that they can be used to store visa and biometric information.

So, there you have it. One day soon, your mobile phone will double as your international passport!

•Awe wrote in from Lagos.


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