LG, Samsung face off with rival mobile TV systems at CES 2008

LG Electronics and Samsung kicked off the New Year by showcasing their rival mobile TV technologies at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Also at the show, the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) announced plans to test both technologies in separate trials this year, focusing primarily on consumer reactions.

At the show, LG Electronics unveiled prototype receiver devices based on its Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld (MPH) technology, developed in partnership with Harris. Samsung, meanwhile, held demonstrations of its Advanced Vestigial Sideband (A-VSB) technology, co-developed with Rohde & Schwarz.

Both technologies, currently being considered by the ATSC for designation as its ATSC-M/H (mobile/handheld) standard, are so-called “in-band” systems, meaning their signals can be delivered using a portion of a U.S. broadcaster’s 19.4Mb/s digital signal allocation. This allows the broadcast of one or more mobile channels along with SD, HD or a combination of SD and HD channels. The systems are also both backward compatible with the ATSC broadcast standard, enabling broadcasters to use their existing digital TV towers to transmit the signal, using a MPH or A-VSB exciter at the headend. Preliminary tests of the systems performed last year demonstrated they could both reliably deliver mobile signals indoors and outdoors.

While LG and Samsung at CES took pains to highlight the differences between the systems, because of their similarities, it is likely that the only way to determine which technology will win out is by testing them among U.S. consumers. This seems to be the reasoning behind the OMVC’s announcement of its planned trials with MPH and A-VSB.

In a statement, the OMVC said the focus of the trials was not only to perform additional technical trials, but also to test each mobile system with consumers, examining their acceptance, behavior and preferences regarding potential mobile television services and performance criteria.

Several test markets will be jointly selected by the OMVC and the leaders of each set of trials, with a sample of consumers receiving and testing mobile video content that will be broadcast to mobile and portable receiver devices, such as cell phones, personal media players and laptop computers. Consumers will be able to watch a selection of local and national content and interactive services, and their usage will be tracked.

The OMVC and its partners hope that by the end of the trial, they will be able to predict consumer usage patterns and system performance to support the launch of mobile digital television services targeted for 2009, when most U.S. broadcasters will be required to switch from analog to digital operations.

Certain broadcasters among the 800 OMVC member stations will be selected to provide the transmission infrastructure and local content for the trials in each market. As one of the content sources for the OMVC’s consumer trials, SES AMERICOM will provide mobile broadcast network platform services and aggregate and distribute national content, using the knowledge it gained from the development of its IP-PRIME video distribution platform and from operating a 24-channel mobile television trial network in Las Vegas in 2007.

In MPH trial markets, Harris will provide MPH in-band digital television transmission equipment and LG Electronics will provide MPH consumer receiver devices. In A-VSB trial markets, Samsung’s partner, Rohde & Schwarz, will provide transmission equipment based on the A-VSB system and Samsung will provide A-VSB consumer devices. Additional partners in the A-VSB trials include interactive service provider MobiTV and network equipment provider Nokia Siemens Networks as well as SES AMERICOM.