LG and Samsung agree to collaborate on mobile DTV standard

LG Electronics and Samsung have joined forces to develop a single device that will allow for digital television on cell phones. Previously, the companies had competing and incompatible products.

“Through this collaboration, we also have an opportunity to lead the North American mobile DTV market,” LG president and chief technology officer Woo Paik said in a statement.

Details of the technology alliance were sketchy, with neither company elaborating on its combined system. “Technical details of the single transmission system that we will jointly promote have not been disclosed,” an LG spokesman told “PC Magazine.”

The joint technology will be based on the findings of a test conducted by the Association of Maximum Service Television (MSTV). Details are to be submitted to the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), which is expected to adopt a standard for the North American market in early 2009.

The early frontrunner for a mobile and handheld (M/H) standard to be used for a commercial mobile DTV system by terrestrial stations in the United States appears to be the Harris/LG Electronic-sponsored Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld (MPH) scheme, looking to win out over an Advanced Vestigial Sideband (A-VSB) proposal submitted by Rohde & Schwarz (and Samsung) and a third submission offered by Thomson, called simply ATSC M/H Terrestrial Broadcast Technology. The eventual system picked by the ATSC could be a combination of bits of technology from two or three of the proposals, although that is not entirely likely.

Recent trials were conducted by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) in Las Vegas and San Francisco, a group of U.S. broadcasters promoting the development and early deployment of mobile DTV.

At the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, LG unveiled its MPH device while Samsung debuted AVSB technology. Both are DTV systems that existing local TV broadcasters can build into the TV channels they already own, but the two devices are incompatible.

Both MPH and A-VSB are in-band solutions, which local channels can use to broadcast extra programming for mobile devices. The systems are designed to broadcast to mobile phones, car seat-back TVs and personal navigation devices.

Broadcasters were pleased with the alliance. “Agreement on a standard takes our industry to the next level in the development and rollout of products and services, and the OMVC remains fully committed to the ATSC’s current planned schedule of adopting a final standard by July 2009,” said Anne Schelle, OMVC executive director. “Next we’ll be focused on consumer trials with the goal of realizing mobile DTV for consumers as soon as possible.”

Though the agreement is expected to fast track development of the mobile television standard, the fact is that the two major U.S. wireless carriers are already on the air with live MediaFLO technology from QUALCOMM.

LG said its MPH would work with MediaFLO, and suggested that MediaFLO would become the HBO of mobile TV while its MPH would be the equivalent of local VHF TV stations. It suggested local news through MPH and premium dramas through MediaFLO.

MediaFLO already offers a complete programming lineup, including local news.

Meanwhile, Harris Broadcast said in November it would introduce a full mobile digital TV transmission platform to meet the new ATSC solution proposed by LG Electronics and Samsung. The company will also begin shipping its new Apex M2X ATSC exciter in August. Broadcasters with Apex M2X exciters can install field-upgradeable updates beginning in early November to fully support M/H broadcasts, putting into place the final component needed to complete the end-to-end in-band mobile DTV platform.

The development clears the way for electronics manufacturers to begin designing mobile DTV devices and for local DTV broadcasters to proceed with confidence to build out their new mobile DTV services. How soon these devices reach consumers in the United States is still in debate.