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Carriers Urged to Push Embedded Mobile DTV Cell Phones

RF Report has discussed several studies showing the huge potential for ATSC Mobile DTV (MDTV). The Diffusion Group (TDG),a New York-based consumer research and technology firm, has a somewhat different take on MDTV, as voiced in the article Broadcasters to Create Mobile TV Network

Contributing Analyst Brian Platts outlines the problems he sees in creating demand for MDTV, while emphasizing the need for wireless broadband providers to support MDTV to avoid having their networks overloaded by people watching steaming video.

"While dongles and accessories may help indirectly promote the use of mobile DTV among early-adopters, they will not drive large-scale growth," Platts said. "For broadcast mobile DTV to flourish, there must be a widespread diffusion of handsets capable of supporting the service natively, a feat not at all difficult given today's miniaturization technology."

The problem, he notes, will be in convincing cell phone manufacturers and wireless carriers to add this feature to phones. Consumers typically select a new handset based on price, fashion and overall appeal, rather than a new feature such as MDTV, especially if it requires an additional subscription. The analysis says that subscription MDTV services such as FLO TV have had very limited success, and raises questions as to whether broadcasters will be more successful.

TDG argues that "any claims that DTV will somehow provide relief to congested wireless data networks are premature at best." However, the report sees it being in the interest of mobile operators and vendors to push for embedded support of MDTV.

"If mobile TV remains an 'after-market' phenomenon--requiring dongles and other appendages--and is embedded in only a few devices, most consumers will reject it out of hand and instead rely on cellular service for mobile video content," the organization concluded.

The organization said that as use of the mobile Internet to access "free" online TV Web sites accelerates, data usage will grow, and this will increase the loading of cellular networks. It concludes that mobile operators and device vendors should encourage "embedded support of digital mobile TV solutions."

Platt's article is a preview of a soon to be published TDG report "Assessing Consumer Interest in New Mobile Video Services."

I tend to agree with TDG that built-in tuners will be needed for widespread adoption, but think devices such as laptop/netbook dongles, and the Tivizen MDTV hotspot for iPhones, iPads, Blackberry smartphones, and similar WiFi equipped devices, will help generate interest as early adopters show them to their friends. In addition, as reported elsewhere in this week's RF Report, Dell will have some very attractive devices with MDTV capability built in, plus we'll see standalone receivers and DVD players from LG that should help generate interest. The Samsung Moment phone with ATSC receive capability is just now starting to be distributed for the OMVC Showcase in Washington. Of course, all of this will be for naught if broadcasters in other markets don't offer a good assortment of MDTV programming, with several "free" channels, available off-air when these devices do hit their markets.

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.