At CES Mobile DTV tries again

After five years of promises, mobile digital television is still waiting to happen, but activity is increasing and prototype products are now emerging in earnest. At this year’s CES, there were numerous ATSC A/153 standard-compatible product announcements and predictions (hopes) that viewers will watch the mobile signals transmitted by local broadcasters.

Prior to the show, a group of television stations and networks announced a deal with MetroPCS, a mobile phone providers, that would bring the Dyle mobile service to customers in Los Angeles and 13 other markets later this year. Samsung will make an Android smartphone to be compatible with the service.

At CES, LG Electronics showed new applications that make mobile DTV an educational and informational resource to viewers watching wherever they go, including on public transportation, at public events and on the move with a portable device connected to social networks. The new applications—including a social media platform and instantaneously updated digital signage—were demonstrated at CES.

The mobile emergency alert system (M-EAS) demonstrated publicly for the first time at CES was part of a broadcast pilot project with PBS being conducted in Alabama, Boston, Nevada and Seattle.

"While mobile DTV is just getting started as a compelling service for broadcasters, there are even more interesting applications made possible by mobile DTV's non-real-time capability,” said Dr. Jong Kim, president of LG’s U.S. R&D Lab, Zenith. “Data can be transmitted to receiving devices designed to display social networking updates, weather, news crawls and even location-based advertising.”

Indeed, LG’s CES mobile DTV digital signage demonstration is made possible through a cooperative effort with Harris, which has developed the necessary MDTV transmission equipment that already powers an onboard mobile DTV digital signage system on city buses in Raleigh, N.C. using LG digital signage displays.

Kim said LG is working with Harris Corporation, through its Broadcast Communications business, on ways to help TV stations leverage the power of their broadcast spectrum while enhancing service to their communities by transmitting live broadcasts to more locations.

Now consumers have to buy these new terrestrial reception devices to watch the programming. Also there are two groups using the technology, the Mobile Content Venture with its Dyle network (which is supposed to launch sometime this year) and the Mobile500 Alliance, which is trying to establish a multichannel mobile service.

Supporting the Mobile 500 Alliance, RCA introduced at CES a new flat-panel receiver—the MIT700—designed for both over-the-air Mobile DTV and Internet connectivity. It is compatible with the Dyle Mobile TV service. RCA licensee Digital Stream will market the MIT700, a slender Android-based TV receiver designed to pick up both scrambled and in-the-clear transmissions from broadcast TV stations.

Belkin and the Mobile Content Venture (MCV) teamed up on a new dongle-based ATSC Mobile TV receiver. Live programming will be enabled through MCV’s Dyle Mobile TV service, which gathers content from 15 major broadcast groups including Fox, NBC and ION Television.

After so many years of trying, the major question for digital mobile television in the United States is whether viewers will ever watch. Qualcomm’s FLO TV failed and the spectrum was recently sold and transferred to AT&T.