Doug Lung /
12.29.2011 12:00 AM
Mobile DTV Poised to Take Off

It should be obvious in a few weeks, when the International Consumer Electronics Show opens in Las Vegas, that 2012 should be a banner year for mobile DTV. Driving this are business plans from the Mobile Content Venture (MCV), which announced "Dyle TV" this year, and the Mobile 500 Alliance, which has another business model for ATSC Mobile DTV.

While it is not expensive for a broadcaster to transmit Mobile DTV, until the MCV and Mobile 500 Alliance business plans were developed, it wasn't clear what, if anything, adding Mobile DTV would do to bring in more revenue. However, many broadcasters did begin Mobile DTV broadcasting in 2011 and we saw more options for viewers wanting to pick up Mobile DTV

In 2011, RCA started selling a line of high-performance mobile DTV receivers. The Hauppauge Aero-M USB tuner also became widely available at a cost of only $59. Coby sold a Mobile DTV USB tuner based on the DTV Interactive USB dongle. Although demonstrated at last year's CES, we did not see a tuner/adapter for Android or Apple tablets or smartphones with Mobile DTV capability make it to the market this year.

In the end, that's probably good because much of the broadcast Mobile DTV content now on the air will be encrypted soon, if it isn't already, rendering older Mobile DTV receivers obsolete. That doesn't mean viewers will have to pay for Mobile DTV, but they will have to have the right receiver and register. This will assuage the fears of some content providers (illogical because existing over-the-air HDTV can easily be recorded and converted to tablet- or smartphone- compatible video format), but, more importantly, it will allow broadcasters to get a count of how many people are watching and collect demographic information. It also allows broadcasters to control what devices the encrypted signals can be viewed on and set standards for receiver performance and capability. This should improve viewers' Mobile DTV experience.

The downside of this is that while encrypted Mobile DTV will be available on Android smartphones, it is unlikely to be available for notebook or desktop Linux systems and perhaps even Windows-based systems.

Recently I reported on Motorola Mobility Research's study showing the United States lags behind other countries in use of TV on smartphones and tablets. I'll have coverage of Mobile DTV at CES in RF Report over the next two weeks.

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Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 01-05-2012 11:14 AM Report Comment
If broadcasters are smart, they will insist that the FCC mandate that all mobile DTV devices are capable of receiving over the air signals at no charge -- and with no sign-up requirement, which smacks of Big Brother. Broadcast TV always has been available in the free and clear, and so it should remain, even if that complicates audience measurement. OTA signals are the bait that will allow broadcasters to profit from pay TV channel add-ons -- but they must not let the hardware side throw the baby out with the bath water by requiring viewers to give up their personal data just to watch existing broadcast channels via mobile DTV.

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