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Broadcasters and operators have four years to beat each other senseless as they try and make a payback in what they think will be a lucrative market for delivering video to mobile devices.

Yet even then, many of the technologies they are investing in are likely to be virtually obsolete, with only those able to accommodate high resolution content able to compete longer term.

These predictions – which presumably will make pretty dire reading for many operators – come in a report by Rethink Research.

Rethink predicts 164 million datacast or multicast handsets will be shipped by 2011, split fairly evenly between China, the US and Europe. China in particular will get a boost from the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Non-handset datacast TV devices – iPods, PSPs, and the like – will round up to around 40 million by 2011.

At the top end of the quality curve will be video downloaded via a PC or DVR then reloaded to a mobile device, with video datacast and multicast at QVGA and VGA accounting for the bulk of the market. Other options, such as video purchased on flash memory at various resolutions and free unicast or broadcast video will also be available.

Or put another way, video will be delivered via a raft of channels, “with all the resulting choice and confusion.”

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