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Vodacom launch 2.5G mobile TV with ROK

Following on from my post yesterday, there was a rather curiously-timed press announcement today from South African mobile network Vodacom (50% owned by Vodafone) and ROK TV, which indeed confirms that they’ve hooked up to launch a live and on-demand multi-channel mobile TV service, streamed over the 2.5G GPRS network.

The service, called MobileTVPlaya, offers Vodacom customers a choice of 10 channels to receive on their 2.5G cellphone from a content portfolio of 22 channels ― to include national and international live news, sports updates, music videos, cartoons and comedies ― at a monthly cost of SAR29.00 (approximately £3.00).

“MobileTVPlaya’ is an African first,” said Romeo Kumalo, Executive Director, Vodacom South Africa, “and we’re confident of significant uptake amongst our customers who want access to live and on-demand information and entertainment content on their cellphones at any time, any place.”

“We’re delighted to be working with Vodacom in the deployment of streamed mobile TV across South Africa,” said Laurence Alexander, CEO of ROK TV, “and we will be looking into adding increased functionality and interaction to the service, and even more relevant content in future, once we have a clear idea of the genres of channels that prove most popular.”

So, what’s the significance of this? Here’s what I had to say yesterday..

ROK, as we all know, are big in mobile TV. They have a rather nifty service that works fine on 2.5G GPRS phones as well as 3G. In fact, one of their main unique selling points is you don’t have to go 3G for mobile TV.

Vodafone, on the other hand, are big into mobile TV on 3G. ‘It’s the future”, they cry – and have splashed silly amounts of money on recent advertising campaigns to promote how exciting it is to be able to be one of 12 people to a cell to have the privilege of watching telly on your phone.

Incidently, Vodafone are currently in talks to buy the remaining 50% of Vodacom that they don’t own from Telkom.

Putting two and two together and quite possibly getting five, I get the feeling something interesting is brewing. Knowing how responsive Vodafone’s press office usually is, I decided not to waste a few hours of my life trying to get a statement from them – so I placed a call to ROK’s Marketing Director Bruce Renny, who hasn’t yet called me back, and probably won’t now til tomorrow.

Assuming the answer is five, and a Vodafone joint venture (and, if the deal goes through, a wholy owned subsidary) has ended up with a GPRS-based mobile TV service when the corporate line is ‘3G TV all the way”, it could be a little embarrasing.

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