Mobile DTV tests begin in Washington, D.C.

Nine TV stations in Washington, D.C., began transmissions today as part of a four-month test of the ATSC’s A/153 Mobile DTV standard. The Washington Consumer Showcase tests will be coordinated by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) and are designed to measure consumer behavior and expectations about mobile digital television.

The OMVC, a 30-station group organization representing nearly 900 TV stations, said “hundreds” of Washington, D.C., area citizens are participating with LG Electronics and Samsung-supplied cell phones and other portable devices. However, they did not offer an exact number of people equipped to receive the signals or say how the participants were selected.

Anne Schelle, executive director of the OMVC, said participating stations are “delivering on the promise of making digital television a mobile service you can watch wherever you go."

Member stations, which have made temporary deals with several program providers, will not charge for the 20 channels of content broadcast during the trial. As for a permanent working business model, there are several scenarios for the future but none are being employed yet.

In the D.C. test, the OMVC is working with media measurement firm Rentrak and market researcher Harris Interactive to study consumer usage habits. The test will involve several features of the technology, including interactive voting and polling, interactive advertising, electronic service guides for program information and transmissions of emergency alerts and closed-captioning information.

A range of prototype mobile devices, including mobile phones, netbooks and portable media players will be used. LG Electronics and Samsung are sponsoring the trial, two companies that hope to manufacture and sell components for the new technology should it catch on. Sprint is participating as the wireless carrier in the test.

Programming for the test will be fed to the nine stations and controlled at a new mobile DTV network operations center, located at the studios of WUSA-DT. The participating stations in Washington are WRC-DT, WTTG-DT, WDCA-DT, WUSA-DT, WPXW-DT, WFDC-DT, WHUT-DT, WNVT-DT and WNUV-DT.

Harris will supply its ATSC A/153-compliant MPH platform to six of the nine stations, while the rest will use Rohde & Schwarz and Thomson Grass Valley (WTTG) transmission technology.

A typical mobile TV system integrates into most DTV transmission systems and includes everything that broadcasters need to launch and support one or more ATSC Mobile DTV program streams. The complete solution includes mobile video encoders, a mobile networking adapter, an exciter, as well as a special server that generates service signaling and transmits an electronic service guide. The mobile DTV broadcast platforms also feature the Nagravision service protection system, which enables stations to offer premium program streams.

In related mobile DTV news, station group Belo is launching mobile digital TV transmissions at its stations in Charlotte, NC, (the NBC affiliate WCNC-TV) and Seattle, WA, (KONG-TV, an independent station) using the Harris MPH platform for ATSC Mobile DTV broadcast. Belo plans to expand the service nationwide in the next few months.

KONG serves as one of the model stations that were set up to support receiver-device developers. While about 40 are now transmitting a mobile DTV signal in the United States, the OMVC has stated that some 150 stations will be on the air by the end of the year.