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AT&T CruiseCast hits the road in time for summer road trips

"Our primary concern was who was going to be in the back seat of the car," said Winston Guillory Jr., RaySat president, of the real-time programming delivered by the CruiseCast in-car mobile TV service just launched by partners AT&T and RaySat. The service is available nationally through authorized installers and aftermarket car retail outlets, which install the system. The price for the antenna and receiver is $1299, and the monthly subscription fee is $28.

AT&T CruiseCast surpasses the simple headrest-mounted DVD displays by providing a broad selection of mobile video that includes a variety of family, documentary, music, comedy, news, sports and children’s programming — in all, 42 channels of satellite TV and radio, including channels such as Lifetime, Discovery Kids, Animal Planet, Cartoon Network Mobile and Disney as well as sports, news and weather channels.

The system keeps the equipment unobtrusive, scaling down the antenna into a 9.5in by 5in pod. The antenna pairs with a receiver inside the vehicle to deliver the video and audio. Because the remote control uses RF, it doesn't have to be pointed at the receiver. To overcome line-of-sight obstacles such as overpasses, buildings, trees or tunnels, CruiseCast uses a three-minute CruiseCast buffer to ensure signal transmission reliability.

"We're transmitting at a lower bit rate than in-home services. We don't need the higher bit rate because people aren't putting 52in plasma screens in their cars. Ninety percent of in-car screens are 10in or less. We can use that extra payload to send every pixel more than once and use a buffer to save and maintain it," RaySat Broadcasting COO Mike Grannan says. "The system allocates 1GB of RAM for the buffer."

For more information on the AT&T CruiseCast service, listen to RaySat's Q&A with Winston Guillory.