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ATSC Mobile Shines at 2010 CES

I had a chance to visit the Open Mobile Video Coalition's reception at the 2010 International CES in Las Vegas Wednesday evening and got a preview of some of the mobile DTV products on display in the Mobile DTV Tech Zone. From what I saw, broadcast mobile DTV is off to a great start with great support from consumer electronics manufacturers. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show had more innovations than any previous show and added that 2010 would be "the year of mobile DTV."

NAB CEO Gordon Smith observed that "broadcasting's best days are ahead of us" and noted that no other service used spectrum more efficiently than broadcasting.

In the Mobile DTV Tech Zone, manufacturers were working to finalize their booth displays, but I was able to get a glimpse of a few products.

Ventus brought along some interesting technology. Instead of a device that receives RF and converts it to USB for connection to a PC, the Ventus 1.0 USB ATSC M/H test transmitter takes a USB signal generated from its PC software and converts it to RF. The main customers for this device will likely be Mobile DTV (ATSC M/H) chip set and receiver manufacturers. The Ventus people said that they are also looking at applying their technology to low-cost, low-power DTV repeaters and boosters. As I discussed in my recent RF Technology column, these devices will be necessary to provide coverage in RF shadowed but popular areas like train stations, shopping malls, and convention centers.

Other manufacturers of RF-related products in the Mobile DTV Tech zone included Axcera (mobile DTV exciters and multiplexers) and Rohde and Schwarz (mobile DTV exciters, multiplexers and encoders). DTV Interactive has dongles for PCs and Macs on display along with DTV test equipment to give mobile DTV broadcasters a way to map their signal quality while driving and to analyze exactly what's being transmitted and how much bandwidth it's occupying. Sarnoff is showing multiple mobile DTV test solutions.

Several companies are showing Mobile DTV devices. LG has a wide range of devices and chip sets for other manufacturers; Valups is showing the Tivit—a device for mobile DTV reception on Wi-Fi equipped smartphones, netbooks, multimedia players such as the iTouch, and notebook computers, (this device has received tremendous press response—see the links in the RF Shorts part of this week's RF Report). PixTree is showing mobile DTV dongles and receivers, as is iMovee, which in addition to dongles, had a wide range of devices including portable multimedia players with mobile DTV capability and screen sizes ranging from 4.3-inches to 9-inches, a DVD player with mobile DTV, GPS navigation device with Mobile DTV (this sounds dangerous) and the "Car Telly", which has an ATSC Mobile DTV receiver providing audio/video outputs for an existing in-car display.

I'll have more on ATSC Mobile DTV at CES in next week's RF Report.

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.