ATSC, OMVC advance case for 2009 delivery of mobile TV standard

Since the publication of a study late January stating that U.S. TV broadcasters could reap billions in added revenue if a single mobile DTV standard is released by early 2009, representatives of the Advanced Television Standards Committee (ATSC) and the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) have been highlighting their efforts to make such a standard a reality.

The study, conducted for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) by the BIA Financial Network, found that TV stations delivering content to mobile and handheld devices could generate as much as $2 billion in annual revenue — primarily through advertising — by 2012, providing that an industry standard is adopted and the technology is deployed quickly. The report states that in order to ensure the maximum benefit to broadcasters, the standard should be in place by early 2009, when most commercial stations will be mandated by the FCC to shut off their analog signal and move to the digital spectrum.

In a recent Web discussion on the study, Dr. Rick Ducey, chief strategy officer at BIA, said it would take more than just the adoption of one ATSC standard by the industry to make mobile DTV a boon to broadcasters. He noted that companies with technologies essential to implementing the standard must negotiate rights to their intellectual property using Reasonable and Non Discriminatory Licensing (RAND)-based terms in order to make the standard competitive in the marketplace.

In addition, Ducey said, in order to make mobile DTV services compelling to consumers, a significant number of broadcasters would need to provide such services in time for the 2009 Christmas season. A similar number of consumer electronics retailers and cellular service providers would need to offer mobile DTV-capable devices at the same time.

Currently, the ATSC is considering three proposals for a full-system mobile DTV standard, which it has dubbed “ATSC-M/H,” along with separate proposals related to audio codecs, management and presentation layers and interactive TV services, among other elements. The standard would support delivery of real- and non-real-time TV content and data to mobile and handheld devices within the same digital channel allocation used for HD and SD transmission and would be backward compatible with the current ATSC DTV standard.

In conjunction with the OMVC, the ATSC has launched an Independent Demonstration of Viability (IDOV) on the proposals to test their viability in the field. The OMVC is currently conducting the IDOV in San Francisco and plans similar tests in Las Vegas. ATSC President Mark Richer has stated that his organization’s goal is to choose an ATSC-M/H 1.0 standard candidate by the end of the fourth quarter of this year and have the final ATSC-M/H 1.0 standard in place the first or second quarter of 2009.

The OMVC, for its part, is coordinating with the ATSC to drive early (prior to Feb. 18, 2009) equipment availability for broadcasters, according to Dan Hsieh, president of MTC Services, which is consulting for the OMVC on the project. Speaking at the aforementioned Web forum, Hsieh said the OMVC was also spearheading the delivery and integration for lab verification with the ATSC, reviewing backward compatibility, performance benchmarking and interface verification, among other things. It plans to present a report to the ATSC on these matters as well as the IDOV results in May of this year.