Telstra offers live election, Idol coverage on 3G

Telco expert calls the future of mobile proprietary content a ‘dead end street’

Telstra has announced it will offer its 1.5 million Next G customers the chance to watch the latest federal election and Australian Idol final results on their mobile phones this weekend.

Telstra will be streaming coverage from both events onto Next G handsets for a one-off cost of $2.95 for the election, commencing 5.30pm Saturday from channel nine footage, and $2 a week for the Idol Live TV pack.

"The Next G network is available to 98.9 per cent of the population so anyone with a Next G phone can use it," Telstra spokesperson Peter Taylor said.

"We don't think that all the people watching the election coverage will watch the Idol coverage, but we want to make sure there is something there for a whole heap of different customers so they can see the benefits of the latest mobile technologies," he said.

Paul Budde, managing director of independent telecommunications research and consultant BuddeComm, agrees that Telstra's offerings show the capabilities of the new network.

"It can really bring some innovative new applications to the mobile phone, and obviously it is in Telstra's interest to show off and there is nothing wrong with that, it's a good network and a good service," he said.

But Budde says the problem he sees is that these new services can become very expensive, and consumers must be extremely careful in choosing the right package.

"You have to be so careful not to run up big bills, that is what is scary and many people don't dare to venture into these new applications because of all the horror stories they hear," he said.

Budde believes that these kinds of services will really take off once carriers and content providers develop a business model where mobile data is capped, so customers do not have to worry about bills and data download rates.

"Now, the mobile portals are protected and proprietary. But once you have an opening up of the mobile data market and for say $50 a month you can get 'all you can eat' data from anywhere, and people can do their e-mail or go onto the Internet and go to the sites they want, I think that is what will open the market," Budde said.

"The proprietary-based portals are going to be a dead-end street, and that of course is a worrying factor for companies such as Telstra who put a lot of effort into creating proprietary content. But like the Internet the future of these sorts of 'walled gardens' is very bleak."

For now, Budde sees the new mobile technologies as a way of delivering content to niche markets.

"I think that is the beauty of the new technology, you can go away from the one size fits all television screen and go into niche markets and developments."

"But again, it comes back to the scary part - how much will it cost? That is what will hold people back."

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