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Harris proposes new in-band mobile TV format

Harris is proposing a new in-band mobile TV delivery format that it estimates could be available for cell phones, PDAs and other portable devices within 12 to 14 months, pending upcoming field tests. The new format's biggest competitor would be the ATSC's A-VSB, a candidate for standardization.

Like A-VSB, the new format, which Harris has not yet formally named, is an in-band service, allowing for the delivery of mobile content as part of a broadcaster's digital bandwidth allocation. This gives broadcasters the advantage of providing content to mobile viewers without having to create a separate channel for the service, as is the case with dedicated network-type formats such as Qualcomm's MediaFLO. In addition, the content can be received by a variety of mobile devices, not just cell phones. It can also be delivered simultaneously with a broadcaster's fixed DTV content.

According to Harris, the proposed format provides higher signal performance as well as the ability for broadcasters to add more of a payload to the mobile part of their spectrums than A-VSB, allowing the delivery of more channels to viewers and a more robust signal. At a recent press conference in New York, the company said that low-power testing of the format demonstrated performance at approximately a 7dB greater signal threshold than A-VSB.

Harris plans to conduct field tests of the format with as-yet undisclosed partners in a high-power UHF station environment this month. It will release more information about the project and its partners at NAB2007. Pending the results of the tests, it estimates the technology could be used to deliver content to mobile devices within 12 to 14 months, with possible prototype devices coming to market beforehand.

From a business standpoint, the format will allow broadcasters to compete with the influx of dedicated services in the U.S. market, according to Jay Adrick, VP of broadcast technology for the Harris Broadcast Communications Division. "Not every broadcaster is going to end up with his content on a dedicated mobile service provider. Some are going to get in and make deals with the Qualcomms and Modeos and other operators, but there will be others that are left out in the cold. This is an alternative to that kind of service."

Qualcomm has already inked deals with such major broadcasters as FOX, CBS and Viacom to provide content to mobile phone viewers via dedicated network services. It plans to roll out a broadcast video service on the Verizon Wireless V CAST platform this month and recently partnered with AT&T's Cingular Wireless for similar services.

On the transmission side, Harris makes equipment supporting MediaFLO as well as DVB-H, another in-band mobile television format. DVB-H has seen the most adoption outside the U.S., but is currently being beta tested in New York City by service provider Modeo. If the new Harris format is successful, the company will be able to add another major format to the two it already supports.

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