Mobile DTV Is Quickly Approaching

Consumers should be able to enjoy the benefits of mobile and handheld reception of local DTV broadcasts by the end of next year. Wednesday, two of the participants in the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) Independent Determination of Viability (IDOV) laboratory and field-testing agreed to cooperate on an ATSC mobile/hand-held (M-H) standard. Thursday ATSC received the IDOV report from OMVC.

OMVC and ATSC did not release details on the IDOV beyond those disclosed last month at NAB, which stated that broadcast mobile DTV does work and was found to provide service at distances of up to 40 miles from the transmitter site. The buzz around LG and Samsung’s agreement to cooperate implies the ATSC/M-H standard will be based on a combination of the two companies’ technologies.

While Thomson and Micronas participated in the IDOV, their presentations at NAB indicated they were looking at their technology being used in an ATSC/M-H Version 2, and not necessarily the first version. All three systems have technologies that should benefit broadcasters in serving mobile and handheld TVs. Based on the LG/Samsung agreement, the real winners in the IDOV are broadcasters and viewers wanting to see the televised programming on their cell phones or mobile devices.

“The enormous effort and dedication of resources by OMVC is another strong indicator that the industry has a high level of on interest in the ATSC efforts to develop the ATSC-M/H Standard,” said Glenn Reitmeier, chair of the ATSC board of directors.

The combination of support from major broadcasters and content providers, as well as two of the major suppliers of cell phones and portable electronic devices, is clear indication that the ATSC-M/H standard will move mobile DTV in the United States out of the lab and into the streets.

Many issues ago I reported on a discussion on the technology Web site about the analog shutdown. I was surprised to see many of the commenters were not concerned about the loss of TV on their home sets (where there are many options for DTV reception), but on small portable TV sets, where except for the Best Buy Insignia and Radio Shack Accurian portables, there are few options. Prior to Christmas next year, consumers should have other options for mobile and hand-held broadcast TV reception including their cell phones or in-vehicle receivers from manufacturers such as Kenwood.

Analog portable TV sets provide an important source of information in emergencies. In fact the FCC is keeping one analog station on the air in Wilmington, N.C., to provide emergency information, since the planned early analog shutdown there will occur in hurricane season.

While the IDOV found mobile TV technologies tested did not interfere with the reception of traditional ATSC DTV, mobile-handheld services will require a part of broadcasters’ 19.39 Mbps data bandwidth. In my June RF Technology column in TV Technology magazine I’ll describe how mobile DTV technology works and the trade-offs involved for stations wanting to adopt it.

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.