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Mobile TV coming, playing second fiddle to 3D

Yeah yeah, you know I think 3D broadcast is a long way off and probably going to fail.  That’s just my opinion but for anything other than feature films I just don’t see people grabbing their glasses when they sit down to watch some TV in the evening.  That said, I do see people sitting on trains, busses or at the stadium watching the game using their mobile device to view it from a different angle or catch up on the morning’s news.

Mobile TV is making a big push at CES this year, and unlike a lot of other technology being touted, I get the feeling this one could actually work.

Headend_Block_Diagram The issue with ATSC is that things like doppler shift and multi-path interference make it basically impossible to receive a transmission while moving.  The fact is that ATSC was designed to carry digital HD content, not deal with movement in the signal reception.  In comes ATSC-M/H.  (ATSC-Mobile/Handheld)  This was developed to meet a few requirements paramount of which is the ability to have portable, moving tuners that would still receive a clear signal.

Layer-ModelThe standard itself is a combination of two systems; one proposed by LG (MPH) and another by Samsung(A-VSB).  After testing by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) it was decided to bring the two standards together.  The final spec was signed off on in October of 2009.  I’m not an engineer and if you’d like to delve into how ATSC-M/H works, be my guest.

While we’d normally see a “chicken and egg” scenario with technology like this, ATSC-M/H has been in candidate status since December of 2008.  This has allowed manufacturers to begin producing products even before the spec was finalized.  This means that while we’ll be seeing products demoed at CES 2010, broadcasters are already starting to transmit in ATSC-M/H in major metro areas.  I’ve been told over 30 so far with hundreds getting ready.  The cost for stations to start supplying ATSC-M/H feeds is almost nothing compared to the cost incurred to move to digital transmissions.  This means that broadcasters can quickly and cheaply open up new ad revenue streams as others are drying up.

Most of this will be announced at CES later this week at the OMVC’s Techzone display.  Included in the booth are LG DP570MH Mobile Digital Television and DVD player as well as the Tivit which receives Mobile TV broadcasts and pushes them out over Wi-fi to your other devices.  Apparently this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to devices that will be launched this year however.  Consumers can expect to find not only stand alone players but cell phones and other handhelds with Mobile DTV tuners built in.

  • Prototype phones with integrated Mobile DTV tuners
  • Netbook computers with integrated Mobile DTV reception electronics for the new Mobile DTV standard;
  • Mobile DTV WiFi Access Point, designed to enable reception of Mobile DTV signals on existing iPhone,
    BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile devices equipped with Wi‐Fi capability;
  • USB Receivers for Laptop Computers to turn a laptop or desktop computer into a display for the new
    Mobile

I know the big story this year is supposed to be 3D, but unlike 3D, Mobile DTV isn’t going to require people to make a huge investment in a new HDTV in their living room.  Even if consumers don’t see a need for another device to carry around, most mobile phone users change handsets at most, every two years.  This means that there are a lot of change outs every year, and I’d be willing to bet that by the end of 2011 it’ll be hard to find a handset without a Mobile DTV tuner in it.

omvc-logo If you live in the Washington D.C. area you’ll soon have a chance to see what Mobile DTV is all about.  The OVMC is putting on a Mobile TV showcase in the nations capital.  There will be at least seven broadcasters participating.  Hopefully this will give a good idea of how quickly Mobile DTV will take off.

As I wrote the other day, I’m not sure how quickly this tech can take off.  I’m honestly hoping that we see something during 2010 however.  One of the main reasons is that OTA broadcast TV is suffering.  Advertisers are moving online and to cable and satellite systems.  This is killing the free TV many people in the US still get by using an antenna.  This could start disappearing if broadcasters can’t find another revenue stream and Mobile DTV could help fill that gap.  With the number of mobile devices that people carry, a broadcast station could quickly double the number of eyes on their content.  With the ability to fit several Mobile DTV channels into the space of one standard definition channel, there’s plenty of room for broadcasters to take advantage of. The question becomes how quickly tuners are put into devices that people want and how quickly broadcasters start pushing real content on Mobile DTV channels.  Hopefully these developments will run in parallel and we’ll quickly have a way to watch TV while on the go.

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