Mobile Satellite Television, Matchbox Phones

Posted on Dec 9, 2004

From Jonathan Schwartz, a pointer to MBCO’s pilot model of a palm-sized user terminal for Satellite Broadcast. The terminals are pretty small - basically a box built around a 3.5 inch LCD display. My favourite mis-translation in the announcement is:

As this frequency is permitted to down-link with strong power from satellite, antennas of terminal can become smaller and pointless.

I’m guessing that they didn’t really want to say that the antenna became pointless, rather non-directional :-).

More recent news on the site suggests that in-vehicle terminals are available now for a little over 50,000 yen (around £250). Once you’ve bought a terminal the service is subscription based, with final prices yet to be announced, but something around £15, presumably per month.

It seems that this might well be a popular device and service, though it depends on what content they secure. It’s similar in some respects to Digitenne and Nokia or KDDI working to add a DVB-T receiver to a mobile phone, though MBCO seem to be moving towards a service more quickly.

I can’t help but think that there needs to be some more convergence before these applications really take off. The mobile digital satellite receiver cannot be used as an in-car route-finder, so you’re stuck having two screens. Similarly, most mobile phone screens are still too small to watch television or use a route-finder whilst driving comfortably, and those with larger screens are not something that you’d want to stuff in a pocket (both because they’re too large and heavy and also the screen would smash).

Perhaps the solution is decomposition rather than convergence. Produce a mobile phone device that is the size of a match-box. It has no user interface as such, just an on/off button. With a Bluetooth headset it can function as a phone. It would be possible to produce a Bluetooth “handset” that includes a screen and keypad but no phone, rather it would use the matchbox sized device to communicate with the network. With a PDA the matchbox functions as a web terminal (or phone!). Allow users to compose the solution they need from the parts rather than fitting things together for them.

The matchbox phone is something that you would always carry. Perhaps it’s in the form of a watch-style device on your wrist or on a chain around your neck. Pick the other components you need depending on what you are doing, or even borrow someone else’s “handset” to make a call via your own matchbox if your own handset is forgotten or lost.