Mobile DTV Shines at CES 2011

All indicators at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show point to the unveiling of numerous devices supporting ATSC Mobile DTV.

Perhaps the hottest Mobile DTV product is the Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet with a built-in ATSC Mobile DTV tuner. The Galaxy Tab has gotten great reviews as an Android-based tablet competing with the Apple iPad, and Mobile DTV capability makes it even better. There are no details yet on price or availability of the new version.

iPad and iPhone users will be able to see Mobile DTV as well, but they will need an outboard device--either one of the 30-pin dongles that Valups will be showing for the iPad and iPhone, or the i30A cradle for the iPhone from Cydle. The i30A also included speakers and smart battery charging. Last year Cydle showed a low-cost Android tablet that the company said would have Mobile DTV capability. It now appears they may be showing it this year.

Wi-Fi access points, like the Tivizen Valups showed at CES last year, are another way to get Mobile DTV content to tablets and other devices with Wi-Fi, but without a TV tuner. Look for Mobile DTV access points from iMovee and Crestech.

Small hand-held legacy ATSC DTV sets are available now for less than $150. RCA announced that it is showing two handheld/portable TV receivers (with 3.5-inch and 7-inch screen sizes) capable of receiving ATSC mobile DTV. RCA is also offering a tuner/receiver for video-equipped vans or other vehicles. RCA did not mention a price in its news release, but I would expect the cost in the same ballpark as handheld ATSC-only receivers. The units should be available soon from Radio Shack.

Winegard will show one of the largest Mobile DTV screens--10.2-inches--in its CioTV mobile entertainment device. The CioTV is also Web-equipped and can be used for Web browsing and e-mail.

Watching mobile DTV on a smartphone or other Internet-connected device opens up opportunities for obtaining additional program information and even interactivity. Two companies working in that area will have demonstrations at CES: MobiTV and Axel Technologies. Axel Technologies will be showing its Fuugo application that allows, among other things, social networking while watching TV.

Hauppauge is continuing to make improvements on its Mobile DTV USB tuners used in dongles and mini-PCI cards for netbooks. Another Mobile DTV USB tuner manufacturer is DTV Interactive, which is now being sold on Amazon under the "Coby" name.

Finally LG, one of the first companies to build a Mobile DTV demonstration receiver, plans to show "glasses-free" 3DTV over ATSC Mobile DTV. (Viewing the signal on a standard mobile DTV receiver shows two side-by-side pictures.)

In addition to these products, look for announcements from two groups recently organized to pool mobile DTV spectrum and push distribution of Mobile DTV content--the Mobile Content Venture (MCV) and the Mobile 500 Alliance. Manufacturers have been reluctant to release mobile DTV products into the nationwide retail chain until there are services available for purchasers to view. Both MCV and Mobile 500 Alliance will have booths at CES.

The CES Exhibitor Directory lists additional vendors showing Mobile DTV-related devices. Look for more details on new products as well as updates on the items mentioned above in next week's RF Report.

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.