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AT&T CruiseCast Pulls Back

AT&T CruiseCast was launched earlier this year to deliver live video to cars via satellite. This week, it appears that CruiseCast has run into some problems. The publication This Week in Consumer Electronics (TWICE) reports AT&T CruiseCast Ceases Activations. The article quotes Mike Grannan, COO of RaySat Broadcasting saying the service will refund consumers for the cost of installation, de-installation, equipment and service.

Competition from terrestrial mobile TV services may be one of the reasons for its apparent demise. Services over 3G networks (iPhone) and dedicated channels (FLO TV) provide mobile TV without requiring a steerable satellite receive antenna on the car. Audiovox is planning to launch a FLO TV in car tuner for $699, including installation. Late in 2010 or in 2011, broadcast Mobile DTV should be available on both portable devices and in-car receivers. Audiovox has been active in the ATSC Mobile DTV standard development and has showed prototype tuners at CES.

The TWICE article notes that ICO Global Communications planned to launch a satellite car video service early next year, but filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in May.

The AT&T CruiseCast and ICO Global problems do not appear to be related to a lack of interest in mobile TV. I suspect the real reason is consumers are finding it hard to justify the cost and complexity of satellite receiver installations and subscription fees, when services like Verizon's VCAST, FLO TV, and iPhone streaming video are easily available. The introduction of ATSC Mobile DTV will give mobile viewers yet another choice, with both free and subscription programming.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.