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FCC Frees Up Mobile DTV With Analog Tuner Waiver

WASHINGTON: The Federal Communications Commission has released mobile DTV from a regulatory obstacle. The commission waived a requirement that mobile digital broadcast TV receivers include analog decoding technology.

“We consider the petitions jointly and conclude that a waiver is in the public interest because it would facilitate the introduction of television receivers with mobile DTV tuners that are designed to be used in motion,” the FCC order stated. “As a condition of the waiver, however, we require that responsible parties clearly disclose to consumers that a specific device does not have the capability to receive analog signals, and, where applicable, standard non-mobile digital signals.”

Dell, LG Electronics and Hauppauge filed petitions to waive the analog-tuner requirement, which originated from a 1962 law ensuring all TVs had UHF reception. The so-called “All Channel Receiver Act” directed that all TV sets had to be able to tune in all frequencies allocated for television broadcasting. It was amended in 2002 to accommodate the digital TV transition, which concluded last June. The analog tuner requirement remained in place, however, because low-power TV stations and translators continue to broadcast in analog.

The mobile DTV standard, ATSC M/H or A/153, was adopted last October, just two-and-a-half years into development as broadcasters raced to get into the mobile video market. Handheld viewing devices debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but it wasn’t until May that the analog-tuner requirement came into question.

LG, Dell and Hauppauge said analog tuners were “inappropriate and unnecessary” for mobile DTV receivers. They said the mandate was a “burdensome obligation that would actually diminish the value of these devices to consumers.” LG said including an analog tuner would mean splitting the input from the reception antenna, diminishing the signal strength by 3 dB and in turn, reducing the overall reception area.

Only devices dedicated to A/153 reception are covered by the waiver. -- Deborah D. McAdams