Why Carriers Will Love Place-Shifting

Posted by: Olga Kharif on February 28, 2006

A technology called place-shifting has been causing quite a stir as of late. The technology, provided by companies like Sony, SlingMedia and Orb, allows users to access their TVs and TiVos remotely. So you can, for example, fire up your laptop in China and watch “Desperate Housewives” recorded on your TiVo back in California.

A slew of recent articles seems to suggest that wired and wireless broadband service providers will do all in their power to fight this place-shifting technology. But I actually think that the opposite will be true: Wireless and wired broadband services providers will jump onto the place-shifting bandwagon, pronto.

Here's why: As consumers access their home TVs wirelessly, their usage of wireless data networks, for example, will increase. The number of subscribers signing up for unlimited data plans will skyrocket.

And I think it likely that wireless carriers will start offering tiered broadband, similar to what wired broadband providers offer already. Basically, if you want higher-quality TV imagery, you'll pay more for your broadband access. A lot of users will pay more to be able to see Teri Hatcher's face more clearly as the "Desperate Housewives" drama unfolds.

I think that wireless service providers stand to make a lot of money on this place-shifting stuff. They should welcome the idea of place-shifting with open arms.

Carriers might have another concern, though: What about their own mobile TV efforts? Wouldn't place-shifting technology pretty much kill those off? Possibly. But, today, most carriers haven't committed that much resources to mobile TV. If someone might be left holding the bag, it will be companies like Qualcomm and Crown Castle, which have been building out special mobile TV networks.

The bottom line: Carriers can make money off of both mobile TV and place-shifting. And I don't see why they should pick one over the other.

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Reader Comments

John

February 28, 2006 05:44 PM

In an ideal world I would agree with you, but unfortunatley the network operators don't want to be seen as just a provider of high-speed wireless pipes, and plus many of them are owned by the same folks who think companies like Google shouldn't be getting a free ride over their broadband networks....

Mike Masnick

February 28, 2006 07:46 PM

Indeed, they *should* love place shifting, but if you watch what the carriers do on a regular basis, it's pretty clear they won't. Maybe (hopefully) some MVNOs will show them the way, but I doubt it.

On top of that, the carriers actually don't want people using up that much bandwidth because the networks weren't built to handle that much usage. Watch, you'll start to see them complain about "network integrity" and things like that.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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