New Kid in Mobile Video Makes Waves

Dec 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

A new entrant in the mobile video business plans to introduce a service this week that could threaten the existing business model of mobile TV by circumventing the need for online video sites to strike deals with cellular carriers.

Silicon Valley-based mywaves delivers Internet video to video-enabled mobile handsets free of charge, regardless of the cellular provider. The business, which has been in beta trial, is slated to go live this week and faces a number of hurdles, such as whether consumers will even use it. But if successful, mywaves could bypass the nascent ecosystem that’s developing to support the mobile television business.

At the end of the third quarter, the United States counted about 5.1 million mobile video subscribers, double the number at the end of the first quarter, according to mobile video research firm Telephia.

Anyone can download the mywaves application at mywaves.com by inputting a mobile phone number on the Web site. The service then downloads to the cellphone, letting users access any Web video content, including CNN videos, the Ask a Ninja online video series or YouTube clips, among others.

The service doesn’t work on most PDAs but does works on most cellphones that have been introduced in the last year, regardless of carrier, said Rajeev Raman, CEO of mywaves. Users don’t have to sign up for a subscription video plan from a carrier to access the videos; the mywaves technology simply routes videos from the Internet to the phone, demonstrating how technology can trump business models.

Last year TiVo introduced capability into its TiVoToGo service that synchs up to iPods, effectively letting TiVo users transfer recorded shows onto their iPods for free, sidestepping the need to buy the shows via iTunes. Mywaves is banking on that same concept but will also face the big obstacle of consumers’ willingness to adopt the service.

“We provide the technology and the tools to get [Web video] on your phone,” Mr. Raman said. “We are putting the power back in the consumers’ hands to let them choose and peruse what they want to see, just like they do with Web video today. We want to give them the exact same freedom of choice on the phone.”

The service entered a beta trial in late September and has been adding about 15,000 users per week, bringing its total to 80,000 to date. The service is free; mywaves makes money through mobile marketing.

Mywaves appears to be a complement to existing video packages from wireless carriers, said Kanishka Agarwal, VP of new products for Telephia. “MobiTV, Cingular video, V CAST give a subscriber access to a certain set of prepackaged channels that will probably be optimized for mobile. Mywaves will provide you a complementary set of channels that are user-generated,” he said.

Mywaves is considering partnering with carriers to develop a premium product in conjunction with them.