For Broadcasters, Mobile DTV Emerges as Main Theme at NAB

I've been in Las Vegas since Monday working on a demonstration of mobile DTV transmitted over the Telemundo station KBLR and two synchronized transmitters (WD9XTL), one at the Stratosphere tower and the other at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It is only one of many mobile DTV demonstrations planned for this year's NAB Show.

This will be my 33rd consecutive NAB show. Looking back at past shows, some RF milestones stand out: the end of tube transmitters—except at high power UHF, where we saw klystrons, tetrodes and diacrodes give way to IOTs. More recently, NAB attendees had to look hard to find an analog TV transmitter on the floor.

This year I think we will see the start of a major change in over the air TV broadcasting. The number of over-the-air viewers has declined significantly in the last 33 years to the point that in most markets only a small percentage of viewers watch over-the-air TV on their home sets. While that trend may stall or even reverse as more consumers discover the benefits of free over-the-air TV, will there be enough viewers to make it worth the cost to maintain high power TV transmitters? The major technical advantage broadcasters have over cable and satellite providers is that their over-the-air signals can reach consumers without the need for special equipment, monthly fees or subscriptions. Turn on the TV and there it is. With the introduction of ATSC M/H technology, these programs will be delivered to consumers on their portable or mobile devices wherever they are.

Many major station groups and networks are members of the Open Mobile Video Coalition. The large number of broadcasters transmitting mobile DTV for NAB and large number committed to starting DTV service in other markets has generated interest among consumer electronics and computer manufacturers. In a few years, when we look back on the 2009 NAB Show, it may be remembered as the year over-the-air TV moved out of the living room and into the pockets, purses and hands of a new generation of TV viewers.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.