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ATSC adopts M-EAS as a standard

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has voted to adopt the work of a special task force, led by industry veteran Jay Adrick, which has come up with a set of recommendations for sending emergency alert system (EAS) messages to cell phones and other portable devices using the existing ATSC Mobile DTV standard. That standard will be called Mobile-EAS (M-EAS).

The M-EAS standard, once published, provides a road map for TV stations to deliver several different media types (video, audio, graphics and interactive HTML pages) so users can get the latest and most complete information without the need for an Internet connection. 

In contrast, the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), now in use by many stations, only provides 90 characters of text. 

M-EAS is based on the ATSC A/153 Mobile DTV standard, which enables TV stations to send video, data and text messages using the same 6MHz terrestrial wireless DTV bandwidth they currently use for their main TV broadcasts. It provides free, interactive, on-demand emergency information over live television to A/153 receiver-chip-enabled portable DTV handsets.

Basically, the recommended M-EAS practices include ATSC non-real time datacast capabilities to deliver this potentially life-saving information. For mobile device users, it requires no cell towers, no cell phone data plan and no Internet access. It is the only system that has the capacity to deliver on-demand emergency messages to many people simultaneously, with the potential to reach millions of people with a single digital TV broadcast. The system also requires no additional radio frequency spectrum to deliver these enhanced alerts.

“In times of crises, we need to be able to reach folks with vital information whenever and wherever they are,” Sam Matheny, Vice President and General Manager, DTV Plus, the datacasting unit of Capitol Broadcasting, wrote in a recent issue of the ATSC’s “The Standard” publication. “M-EAS enables this. Local broadcasters provide the ability to deliver targeted alerts. They can be local, regional or national in scope. Broadcasters provide the only truly scalable solution free of bottlenecks and queues. Broadcasters provide a redundant solution with several stations in each market.”