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CES Embraces ATSC Mobile DTV

If you've been following the news from CES, you already know that ATSC Mobile DTV (MDTV) was one of the big hits at the show. I covered some of the devices available in the Mobile DTV TechZone in last week's RF Report. On Thursday and Saturday I had a chance to visit booths and see some of the other Mobile DTV products.

Cydle is a South Korean company that I hadn't heard of until CES. They have several products planned for release in the second half of this year that should be of interest to broadcasters. First is a multimedia tablet that runs the Android operating system and provides Internet access and ATSC MDTV reception. The planned MSRP is only $199. The next item is a small multimedia player about the size of a pack of cards that will provide mobile DTV reception at a price of $159. Cydle also has a saddle that interfaces with an iPhone to provide additional battery life and mobile DTV reception. While I question the wisdom of watching TV while driving, apparently it's very popular in Korea. Cydle has combined a multimedia device with a GPS navigation system and will offer a unit with ATSC MDTV. Cydle is using the Samsung single-chip mobile DTV solution in their products.

One of the popular items in the Mobile DTV TechZone was the Samsung Moment cell phone with ATSC MDTV capability. Samsung and Sprint have partnered to demonstrate it in the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) market trial in Washington D.C. Other than LG and Samsung, I didn't see any other cell phones with built in ATSC tuners.

In addition to iMovee, which I discussed last week, Vizio and Colby had standalone ATSC MDTV receivers. During the show, FLO announced it would add ATSC MDTV to its FLO receivers. Kenwood, however, said it wouldn't be offering an ATSC MDTV automobile receiver due to its cost. People that want ATSC MDTV in their car should have other options, thanks to the FLO decision and products from other manufacturers such as iMovee.

The Tivit, a device half the thickness of a pack of cards that picks up broadcast MDTV and transmits it over a Wi-Fi link to smartphones, netbooks and other devices received several awards. Here is a YouTube video describing the Tivit.

Segments of the OMVC reception I described last week are available on YouTube; see OMVC at CES 2010.

While reception was adequate in the Mobile DTV TechZone, vendors in other locations had trouble picking up the MDTV signals. The Colby display was very disappointing--they had a line of whip antennas fully extended and none were working well on the standard ATSC and MDTV portables they were showing. An on-channel booster would have helped.

Last week I mentioned the Ventus ATSC MDTV test transmitter but didn't mention the name of the company offering it, Lumantek. Their Web site has more information on the Ventus test transmitter. Lumantek is very interested in working with broadcasters to provide a low cost low-power booster to provide coverage in areas where the signal from the main transmitter is weak.

I'll have more on CES in general and ATSC MDTV in particular in my February RF Technology column.

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.