ATSC Expects to Announce Mobile TV Field Trial Results by May

The Advanced Television Systems Committee is on track to approve a standard for mobile and handheld digital TV (M/H DTV) that would enable the launch of commercial services around February 2009, spurring what one economic analysis pegs as a $2 billion annual flood of ad revenue by 2012.

But analyst BIA Financial Network, in a Web conference, warned that a “format war” in M/H DTV could significantly delay the implementation of the technology.

Tests of the three major competing end-to-end standards (from industry teams LG Electronics and Harris; Samsung, Rohde & Schwarz and Nokia; and Micronas and Thomson) are ongoing in San Francisco and set to begin soon in Las Vegas and elsewhere, ATSC President CEO Mark Richer said.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition, which includes some 800 broadcasters, expects to wrap up the tests or “independent demonstrations of viability” in mid-March and to present its findings to the ATSC specialists group on the subject (TSG/S4, chaired by Mark Aitkin of Sinclair Broadcast Group) by May 15.

The ATSC expects to have a M/H 1.0 candidate standard by the end of 2008, and to complete the standard in the first or second quarter of 2009.

ATSC is also working on standards for non-real-time broadcast (such as pre-transmitting content for storage and later viewing). Richer said that standard is ultimately to be incorporated into the upcoming ATSC 2.0 standard for new fixed-receiver services and into the M/H standard.

Future applications for M/H DTV, Richer said, could include subscription and interactive services and services like navigation data for in-vehicle use.

He and other Webinar participants touted mobile DTV as a shot in the arm for the industry that leverages broadcasters’ enormous bandwidth, inherent wireless quality and grounding with local audiences and advertisers.

“Broadcasting was wireless before wireless was cool,” said Richer.

He said that attendees at the 2008 NAB Show in April in Las Vegas could expect more demonstrations and discussions on the technology, especially around the ATSC DTV “hotspot.”