Company To Offer Nationwide Mobile Audio Service via Mobile DTV

A Pompano, Fla.-based startup has a plan to use ATSC standard A/153 mobile DTV to deliver digital radio services to first and second generation immigrants in the United States.

Ludwig Enterprises says its target is to transmit 40 channels of ethnic content and 10 channels of English language content into each of the top 50 ethnic locations in the U.S. It gave Chinese, Pakistani, Russian, Hebrew, Haitian, Greek, Polish as a few of the languages it is targeting and said "Examples of market locations are NY, LA, Detroit, Chicago, etc."

I could not find any specifics on what stations would be carrying the programming in what markets on the Ludwig web site although the company stated it "is ready to deploy the first U.S. national ethnic radio network." A little research uncovered Ludwig's Patent Application US20100146140 for "System and Method for Multiple Data Channel Transfer Using a Single Data Stream".

I didn't notice a reference to ATSC A/153 in the patent. One diagram shows a multiplexer combining the normal station transport stream with the Ludwig-specific carousel connected to an "ATSC Exciter". The data transmission uses Internet Protocol (IP), which would be compatible with A/153 but could encompass IP encapsulation on conventional A/53 transport streams as well. A diagram in the application shows multiple transmitters, apparently in different geographic locations.

The patent application includes insertion of standard commercials, geographic-specific channels and "Added Feature Data". Geographic-specific channels require use of a GPS and the same GPS would be used to determine the best transmitter to tune to to receive the Ludwig transmission stream.

As you've probably guessed, the Ludwig transmissions will require a special receiver. Ludwig plans to offer "The One Radio" receiver for "a modest one-time fee." The broadcasts will be supported by advertisers and there will not be a monthly charge to receive the programming. The GPS receiver in the device will be used to make the service more attractive to advertisers. Ludwig said advertisers will have access within 72 hours after their message is aired on a Ludwig radio to "the exact, not extrapolated or guessed, number of persons in each (DMA) market area receiving the advertiser's message; a statistical overview of a typical listener profile bases in terms of available Census Information such as age, income level, family size, etc." Online access to this information will be available 96 hours after the advertisement was aired.

The patent application was published June 10, 2010. Audio streams do not require much bandwidth, nor do text messages or similar low bandwidth "billboard" video content.

It will be interesting to see if Ludwig is able to succeed in its endeavor. As interest in mobile DTV and the variety of services it can offer grows, will it be able to compete for limited broadcast bandwidth? Ludwig's use of broadband bandwidth will allow them to deliver advertiser supported programming to ethnic audiences far more efficiently than providing individual streaming audio to each listener but efforts to auction broadcast spectrum to wireless companies could limit the data bandwidth available for such innovative services.

Doug Lung

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.