Mobile DTV development draws kudos from unlikely quarter

Important advances in mobile-DTV receiver chipsets and devices, as well as assurances that such receivers won’t block reception of clear-to-air mobile-DTV signals are two positive developments coming out of the 2012 International CES, said Greg Herman, an LPTV operator and head of the advocacy group.

In a phone interview after the convention, Herman, who has conducted tests of ATSC A/153 mobile DTV television from his Portland, OR-based WatchTV stations, said he was impressed with what has been accomplished.

In particular, Herman said the more sophisticated dongles for wireless devices, such as the Apple iPad and iPhone, were impressive both because of their performance and because they draw power from their host device. The Mobile Content Venture announced at the show that it would collaborate with computer accessories manufacturer Belkin on the design of such devices. Belkin showed prototypes at CES.

Prior to CES, the MCV also said it was partnering with MetroPCS, the nation’s fifth largest wireless phone service provider, to offer a mobile DTV-enabled Samsung smartphone with the Dyle consumer interface.

Herman said he was relieved at CES to learn that no one is going to act as a gatekeeper to prevent reception of clear-to-air mobile DTV signals on a mobile receiver, “particularly if it was a mobile phone.”

“I was assured that even if MCV decides to do a free-to-air or registered service that the devices to be distributed to receive mobile DTV would not affirmatively block anybody that’s not part of that group,” he said.

Herman’s optimism wasn’t restricted to receivers, however. “I liked what I heard about how the industry will go forward building robust versions of M/H transmission infrastructure, whether that be microcells in buildings and stadiums or really digging deeply into distributed transmission systems, which we have played around with and have great interest in. Those are great positive things — particularly for low-power TV,” he said.

In his capacity as an LPTV owner, Herman’s comments would be no more or less important than the thoughts of any other broadcaster. However, as the head of the advocacy group, his positive remarks mark a subtle shift in strategy. spent much of last year unsuccessfully trying to convince the FCC that it should changes its rules to allow television broadcasters to choose the modulation scheme of their own liking. The group was looking for a way to let broadcasters adopt OFDM-based modulation in support of CMMB transmission, which currently is in use in China. Hundreds of CMMB receivers are already commercially available outside the United States, and adopting the new modulation scheme would give broadcasters and the nation a relatively quick and painless way to realize the goal of the FCC for greater wireless broadband coverage and bandwidth, the group contended.

Herman’s positive comments about ATSC A/153 developments at CES reflect an acknowledgement that mobile DTV can be a pathway to the ultimate goal of letting broadcasters use their spectrum to head off the wireless spectrum crunch, if allowed to do so by the commission.

“As much as I would believe that at this stage of the game that America should have the best standards available for the American people, I am also a firm believer that you have to go to war with the army you’ve got,” he said. “If we are up against a brick wall of regulatory challenges to try to do the things we’ve worked on to bring new services forward and new more sophisticated modulation techniques into reality in the United States — if we can’t do that — the one thing we can do is work with what we have.

“The most important thing is that broadcasters use their spectrum in a way that it becomes relevant, and I am talking about their spectrum — not their content — in a way that becomes relevant in the daily lives of Americans,” said Herman.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.