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ATSC launches M-EAS standards effort

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) announced June 12 that it has begun to standardize an all-new broadcast emergency alert system as an addition to the ATSC A/153 Mobile Digital TV standard.

The new standard will make it possible for viewers to receive more than text alerts when dangerous weather or other emergency conditions threaten public safety. The Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) enhancements to the A/153 standard will provide capabilities for delivering multimedia alerts, using video, audio, text, and graphics, to mobile DTV-equipped cellphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks and in-car navigation systems. M-EAS requires no additional spectrum and is an additional use of existing TV transmitters and towers.

The ATSC's decision to standardize M-EAS follows a nationwide pilot project that delivered rich multimedia emergency alerts to prototype mobile DTV receivers and proved the viability of M-EAS.

The year-long pilot project was undertaken by the Public Broadcasting Service and LG Electronics. It was co-funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, LG and Zenith, and received technical support and additional funding from NAB Labs, Roundbox and Harris.

The development of an ATSC standard for Mobile Emergency Alerts has been assigned to the organization's TG1/S4 Specialist Group on Mobile Digital TV. Work is already under way to consider backwards-compatible changes to the A/153 Mobile DTV standard to accommodate the new M-EAS capabilities. The changes will not affect the performance of current-generation mobile DTV or fixed ATSC receivers.